Although the lockout seems like a distant memory, it’s upsetting that the hockey season is already one-quarter of the way finished. Actually, it’s already a bit past one-quarter of the way done. The Islanders have already played fourteen games in 2013, turning past the quarter-point after their twelfth game.
Well, because I was on vacation until this point, I figured we could do a Quarterly (+2 games) review for the Islanders.
Sitting at 6-7-1 and in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, the New York Islanders are very much in the playoff hunt. Whether or not that comes to fruition remains to be seen, but the Islanders have definitely taken a few strides upwards.
How have the Islanders played through their first fourteen games?
The New York Islanders offense looks like what they were supposed to look like during the 2011-12 season. Despite a four-game stretch where the team scored only five goals, the Islanders have still scored the 4th most goals in the East, and the 7th most goals in the NHL. With two games in hand, the Islanders have scored one less goal than the Sabres, and seven less goals than the Sabres.
The offense has been led by John Tavares, who has 11 goals and 20 points through fourteen games. Matt Moulson has also been playing at over a point-per-game pace, while Brad Boyes has filled in nicely for PAP.
Possibly most importantly, the Islanders have found scoring from outside their first-line. Michael Grabner has 6 goals for the Islanders, Keith Aucoin has 4, and every forward who has played at least ten games has at least 1 goal (except for Reasoner, who is now being shopped).
The defense is also moving the puck up the ice better than they have over the past few seasons. Through fourteen games, the Isles D has combined for 23 points.
It hasn’t been all great, though. Kyle Okposo only has 1 goal and 4 points on the season. Josh Bailey has just joined the line-up, but only has 1 assist through four games.
The Islanders have 27 goals during 5-on-5 play, which is good for 7th in the NHL.
Islanders leading scorers (G-A-P):
John Tavares (11-9-20)
Matt Moulson (7-10-17)
Brad Boyes (4-8-12)
Frans Nielsen (1-8-9)
Michael Grabner (6-2-8)
OFFENSE GRADE: B+ because there’s still plenty of room for improvement, and a few of their “top” guys haven’t started scoring.
It hasn’t always been pretty for the Islanders defensive unit, but they are playing better than expected. The Isles were not playing with their full defensive unit until four games ago, and up until then, minutes were distributed very unevenly.
Travis Hamonic, Andrew MacDonald, and Mark Streit were playing 25-32 minutes per game. Brian Strait was easily the Isles 4th-defenseman, although he became an NHL player when he joined the team a few days prior to the season. The bottom-pairing, a three-person rotation of Joe Finley, Thomas Hickey, and Matt Carkner, saw less than ten minutes per game on some nights.
Lubomir Visnovsky has arrived, though, which has allowed the Islanders to spread out some minutes a bit more evenly. Lubo has also contributed 4 assists in four games, and has been on the ice for 11 of the 14 goals the Islanders scored since he’s made the team (per..Twitter? I’m going to give credit to Eric Hornick because he knows all).
Only two players on the Islanders (Brian Strait and Lubomir Visnovsky) are in the “+” column, though. Captain Mark Streit is a -9, while Travis Hamonic is a -7, Andrew MacDonald is a -6. Thomas Hickey is a -6 despite playing only eight games.
The Islanders have allowed 35 goals during 5-on-5 play, which is worst in the league.
DEFENSE GRADE: C+ because up until this point, the Islanders have allowed the 8th most goals in the NHL. Granted, they haven’t had a full defense, and have exceeded expectations, which were really non-existent. The unit should improve.
As mentioned, the Isles have allowed the 8th-most goals in the NHL (47 to be exact). The Isles two goaltenders are Evgeni Nabokov (12 games played) and Rick DiPietro (2 games played).
In my opinion, both goalies have not been impressive, although Nabby has been steadily average. I still don’t feel as if he’s stolen any games in particular (not that I was here for, anyways). We need him to stand on his head, which he does throughout games, but we cannot afford some of the weak goals that he finds ways to allow, especially when the Islanders are clearly outplaying their opponents.
Rick DiPietro’s first game went better than expected, but he was thumped against the Hurricanes, and booed out of the Coliseum (but seriously, try not to do that). Rick must play better, but probably will not play more than 8 games this season.
Again, the team’s playoff hopes will ride on Nabby.
No shutouts yet for the Islanders goaltending duo.
Statistics (Save %, GAA, W-L-OTL)
Evgeni Nabokov (.906, 2.81, 6-5-1)
Rick DiPietro (.842, 4.62, 0-2-0)
GOALTENDING GRADE: C because it hasn’t been terrible, but not nearly good. The Islanders need their goalies to steal a few games, especially because this team has several inexperienced players on this roster. DiPietro’s numbers are terrible, and Nabokov’s are very pedestrian. Still, Nabby can win games. When he’s off, though, the team looks off also.
Special teams is the big wild-card for the Islanders. The Isles have the second best PP unit in the NHL (27.6%), although they have cooled off a bit in the past few games, with the exceptions of their 4/5 outing against Carolina, and their 3/6 outing against the Devils. When I put it like that, the team seems to be getting back on track.
The addition of Visnovsky figures to help, and John Tavares is one of the best power-play players in the NHL. JT and Matt Moulson continue their power-play prowess, with five and four goals on with the man-advantage, respectively.
The penalty-kill also appears to be much improved from last season. Their 23rd-ranked PK from 2011-12 has improved to 4th this season. The Islanders have spent the fourth-least time on the PK this year, but they are getting the job done. The unit has allowed just six goals through 14 games.
SPECIAL TEAMS GRADE: A- because the Isles went on an 0-20+ drought without a PP goal. The Islanders found ways to lose two games in a row where they went 0-7 on the power-play. As great as it’s been, and it’s been superb. special teams cost this team several points in a shortened season. Still, the PP and PK units have been phenomenal, and will be a big reason this team makes the playoffs, if they make it.
So, the Islanders still have thirty-four games to go, starting with tomorrow’s matinee against the Flyers. The Islanders are currently on a two-game winning streak, which has proceeded a five-game losing streak. The team is playing competitive hockey, and it’s not easy to pencil them into the loss column for any upcoming game.
With the continuing evolution of John Tavares, Islanders’ fans have plenty to be excited about. I’ll check back in at the half-way point of this season.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment.
Filed Under: New York Islanders
About the Author: Writes at Islanders Op-Timism. Islanders Season Ticket Holder who tends to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hofstra Graduate currently working at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates. I definitely want to end up working within the world of hockey. Blog: www.IslandersOptimism.com E-Mail: ChristopherTriantafilis@gmail.com Twitter: @ChrisTriants