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Five for Five: Back to Business

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New for the 2019-20 season for Isles Blog, our Rob Taub each Monday will give you his thoughts on five important things to key on for that week’s games for the New York Islanders.

When the Islanders return to the ice later this week, it will mark the start of a new season.

The Isles played 49 games before their well-deserved break and experienced just about every emotion a hockey season could conjure up. There was a slow, frustrating start that turned into a joyous run and a new franchise-record 17-game point streak. There was the aftermath of the streak which generated questioning and anger because of inconsistency and inept offensive production. There was also doubt that set in because of the team’s deficiencies coming to the surface more than usual.

Trotz said after the team’s finale before the long break — a 4-2 win over the Rangers at MSG — said that his group was exhausted. He wasn’t wrong. His team had played a lot of hockey in the previous two months; they also were at the tail end of playing seven games in a 12-day span.

So now, after some much needed time away from the ice, his guys should be rested and ready to get back to the grind of an 82-game season.

Mathew Barzal, the club’s lone All-Star and officially the NHL’s fastest skater, is ready to take that third-period benching and put it in the rearview mirror while hopefully being the player who drives the Isles to their second consecutive postseason appearance. An injured Cal Clutterbuck is ready to hopefully return to the lineup in the near future. And maybe Jordan Eberle is ready to move on from a frustrating first half of this year and finds his scoring touch.

What does the second half have in store for the Isles? We will find out starting Saturday when they host the Vancouver Canucks in Brooklyn this weekend. It’s an opportunity for them to not just build off their victory before the break, but also get the ball rolling for the last two months of the regular season.

Even with just one game on tap this week, there are still things to keep track of with the Isles this week. They can be found below:

Anders Lee staying hot, Anthony Beauvillier keeps producing.

Lee has regained his goal-scoring prowess and it was evident before the team’s time off. He had recorded three goals in his last five games; two of them coming in consecutive games in Carolina and against the Blueshirts. Lee’s unassuming 16 goals — third on the Isles — has him on pace for his third 30-goal season. It’s not to say he carried the offense in the latter part of the Islanders’ grueling recent stretch of games, but he’s been the one finding the back of the net. Hopefully, it propels him to keep putting pucks in for the rest of the year.

On the other hand, Beauvillier has rediscovered his game again after going cold for a while. The 22-year old Beauvillier started the season on fire and was arguably the team’s best forward through the first quarter of the year. With six points in his last five contests, that intensity is back in his game. Something that the coaching staff is going to need consistently as the season dwindles down toward the postseason.

Devon Toews’ game after his immature act against the Capitals.

Toews took full responsibility for his mocking of Evgeni Kuznetsov’s bird celebration that infuriated Trotz after his team squandered a 4-1 third period lead. What’s crazy though is in that loss, Toews had the best game of his career to date — one goal, two assists. The spotlight will now be a little brighter on him as the team resumes play this weekend. Toews had his ups and downs this year, his sophomore season. His decision last week was the wrong one at the worst time. Now, watching how he responds will be very important for his development.

Continuing to dominate in the faceoff circle.

A recent trend of late, the Islanders being the better team on draws. In three of the four games before the break, they had a faceoff winning percentage of over 50%. Two of those games — the two Ranger games — they won an incredible 61 and 65% of the draws taken. Having that advantage leads to more chances in the offensive zone, something the Isles have struggled with over the years. Saturday will pose quite the challenge as the Canucks rank second in the league at winning faceoffs.

The power play staying consistent.

This is a big one for the Islanders and has been all year. The good thing is the power play has begun to produce better results of late; 2-for-2 in the Ranger game and 1-for-4 in the loss to Washington means that both power-play units are being a little more aggressive with their decision making.

Domination at Barclays.

Saturday marks one of the eight games remaining on the schedule that the Islanders play in Brooklyn. Barclays Center, despite the cutdown of games this year from 21 down to 14, has shockingly been a home-ice advantage for the Isles — they own a 4-0-2 record there this season. I guess the more they win there, the more people forget how bad of an experience it is. Oh well.

It’s great that hockey is back. The second half should make for an interesting ride.

Follow me on Twitter at @RTaub_

 

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