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.
The time has arrived for everybody to realize that the Islanders are one of the best teams in the NHL.
After burning former captain John Tavares and his Leafs squad Wednesday and following that win with a stunning come from behind 4-3 shootout victory in Philadelphia Saturday night, it’s hard to argue that Barry Trotz’s troops are anything but. They’re 13-0-1 in their last 14 games, recorded five straight wins on the road, accounted for 47 goals for in their last 14 games, and have won games coming in almost every fashion possible.
“We just stayed with what we were doing,” said Trotz after the win Saturday night. “We had tons of scoring chances; they just weren’t ending up in the back of the net. We could have been up a couple of goals in the first period… It just wasn’t going in for us. What I liked about for us, is that we didn’t deviate. We stayed with it.”
All the charts and graphs people that stated last year was a fluke are being put in their place by these Islanders too.
The Isles as a team have allowed just 42 goals through 18 games this season, tops in the league. The goaltending duo of Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov have continued to get the job done, despite each struggling in their last few starts. And the club’s offense, who has always received the brunt of the negativity from those experts around the league, are thriving right now.
Another thing worth noting from last week: we might have not even seen how dominant the Isles could be this season. Granted, in this unbelievable run they are still missing Matt Martin — who could return at the end of this week — and forwards Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle have yet to light the lamp in a while; Eberle did just return from injury last week, but the fact still stands. Once those two get on the scoresheet, the floodgates might finally open and make the offense even more dangerous.
Quick shoutout should also go to Otto Koivula who appeared in his first NHL game in Philly. Koivula became the fourth Islander rookie to make his debut this year — Noah Dobson, Oliver Wahlstrom, and Cole Bardreau being the other three.
Moving on to this week, the Islanders finally get some clarity with what’s been a weird schedule to open the year. A home-and-home with the Penguins starting Tuesday night in the Steel City and the first of a three-game roadie out in California with the Sharks are on the docket.
Here’s what to watch for:
Anthony Beauvillier on a tear.
Beauvillier is in the midst of the best stretch of his career aside from his performance in the second half of the 2017-18 campaign. The 22-year old notched back-to-back two-goal games last week and was the catalyst in both victories over Toronto and Philly. Though he only has six goals to show for this year, that number looks pedestrian compared to the amount of chances Beauvillier has generated since the season started and the ridiculous amount of posts he’s hit. He and linemate, Derick Brassard, have established that French connection and have become quintessential in the lethal Islanders attack.
Greiss/Varlamov bouncing back?
It feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve had to mention the goaltending being in a bit of a funk. Make no mistake, Greiss and Varlamov have still been sharp enough to give the Islanders a chance to win. But a few stoppable goals have crept their head over the last couple of games. The Isles don’t need that to start becoming a common theme. Neither of the two has yet to take sole possession of the starter role, that in part due to the strict rotation under Trotz. Maybe that begins to change this week.
Brassard staying hot.
I mentioned Brassard before for how well he’s developed chemistry with Beauvillier, but individually, he’s playing with a ton of confidence right now. Brassard has six points in his last three contests, including a three-point performance versus Toronto. And on the power play, Brassard has provided the Isles another dynamic presence; the goal he and Mathew Barzal combined for last Wednesday was anything short of beautiful. He’s been one of the unsung heroes in this run and is making that contract he was handed from by Lou Lamoriello look like the steal of the offseason.
Barzal to Brassard. Dirt. pic.twitter.com/nF4RZWeX4T
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) November 14, 2019
Inching closer to the Capitals.
The Islanders continuing to win you would think would help them gain ground on the Caps? Think again. Even with four games in hand, the Isles are still staring up at their division foe. This week provides a huge opportunity for Trotz & Co. to make their move towards claiming the top spot in the Metro.
Returning the favor.
Last Thursday, the Isles were 20 minutes away from winning their 11th in a row and keep their chase for the franchise record of 15. The Penguins spoiled the party, winning 4-3 in overtime and essentially making the Islanders begin a new streak. That outcome should definitely be on the minds of the players and coaches when they take the ice in Pittsburgh tomorrow night. Tuesday marks the first time the Isles will skate in Pittsburgh since game four of the first round last spring, where they completed a four-game sweep to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
Follow me on Twitter at @RTaub_