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.
With Thanksgiving being this week, there’s a lot for the Islanders and their supporters to be thankful for.
The list, of course, starts with head coach Barry Trotz, who has coached the Isles to their best start since the dynasty years — 16-3-2. Then it goes on to Mathew Barzal, the fourth line and so forth. Somewhere in the middle — or frankly toward the top if you’re counting this season — is this unfathomable run the team has produced following a 1-3-0 start.
That run is a franchise-record 17-straight games with at least a point.
Last week, the Isles set their new mark passing the teams’ Cup-winning squad in 81-82 of 15 straight with two dramatic OT wins in a home-and-home with the Pittsburgh Penguins. They added to that by playing their fourth consecutive overtime game Saturday night in San Jose, only to fall 2-1 on a Logan Couture goal. The defeat was also just the second time in 44 days they were on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
We weren’t just quite able to get it done, Adam Pelech said after Saturday’s game. “We got a point. But it’s tough to win every single game in this league. I thought tonight was one of our better games we’ve played in probably a few.”
A few other good things to point out for the Isles heading into the week: Brock Nelson has found his groove again. He was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week with four goals in three games, including consecutive OT winners. Goalie Semyon Varlamov seemed to settle back in after allowing eight goals in his previous two appearances. He made some excellent saves and allowed just one goal through 60 minutes against the Sharks. And D-man Ryan Pulock is also really starting to get going with points in all three contests last week and five points in his last five games.
With two more games left in Southern California before entertaining the Blue Jackets this coming Saturday in Brooklyn, the Islanders have a chance to extend their point streak and push themselves further from the rest of the pack in the East.
Here are the five things to look for this week:
Eberle getting off the snide.
The excuse can be made that he was sidelined for over a month with an injury, but sooner or later Jordan Eberle has to find the back of the net. He’s sitting on zero goals right now and five assists in 11 games played. Eberle didn’t have a shot in the last two games but he did have five in last Tuesday’s win in Pittsburgh. Trotz and his staff can’t rely on the second line forever to carry the offense. That’s where Eberle needs to finally get on the goal sheet and maybe the floodgates would open. Eberle was brought back on a team-friendly deal because he was a goal-scoring monster at the end of last season and in the first round of the playoffs last spring. He’s got to find that gear again.
The Power Play.
There’s not a lot you could spout angry about watching the Islanders’ power play this season. They’re significantly better than last season and more aggressive. And it’s shown — they rank 13th in the league at 20%. This 2-for-16 slog in their past three games could be a little concerning. It cost them a possible second point against the Sharks. Getting Anaheim and Los Angeles this week, they take a lot of penalties, so the Isles get the chance to get back on track.
Anders Lee re-fining his scoring touch.
It’s been a rough go for the Isles captain who is stuck on just five goals for the year. Lee is in a rut right now but is getting his chances. In his last five games, Lee has totaled 17 shots. How one hasn’t found the back of the net speaks to the frustration of how much more lethal the Isles’ offense could be if Lee started scoring. It’s only November which doesn’t mean that Lee’s going to struggle like this all year. But the goals need to start coming for Lee before it’s too late.
Not overlooking the competition in Cali.
The Kings and Ducks are bad, but that doesn’t mean that the Islanders should take them lightly. For how good the Isles have been recently, not coming away with points — or giving away points for that matter — would be unacceptable.
More overtime drama?
The last four games Trotz and Co. have needed the extra session to keep their point streak alive. It seems that it’s becoming a common theme not just during their run, but the whole season. The Isles through 21 games have reached overtime or the shootout eight times already. The good thing is they’ve won most of them. Do they need to keep playing overtime games? Probably not. Will the trend probably continue? It feels like it.
— x-Isles on MSG Plus (@IslesMSGN) November 20, 2019
Follow me on Twitter at @RTaub_