Although the New York Islanders are coming off their most succesful road trip in ages, the players – led by John Tavares – aren’t getting ahead of themselves.
The scary part? They could’ve been much, much better.
While John Tavares and Nick Leddy have carried the team over the past couple of weeks (after El Capitano, Tavares, had one of the biggest slumps of his career out of the gate), Brock Nelson has reduced his point total and Calvin de Haan has been sidelined with multiple injuries that has forced (not like he was looking for an excuse) head coach Jack Capuano to play Brian Strait.
“You have to make sure you keep staying with the pack and winning as many games as you can,’’ Travis Hamonic told Arthur Staple of Newsday at Northwell Health Ice Center. “Maybe before, when you go on a run like we’ve been on, you gain some more ground in the standings. But that’s just how tight it is right now.’’
John Tavares added, “You don’t take anything lightly. We lost home ice [to the Capitals] last year, by a tiebreaker. We understand that goes right down to the very end.
“It’s part of making the playoffs. [Home ice] is significant any year, that’s what you always play hard for. How important is it? I mean, I think for us we would have loved to have a Game 7 on our home ice last year. We’re still trying to solidify getting to the playoffs.”
Still, the Isles have emerged from a grueling seven-game road trip unscathed. New York went 6-1-0 over the trip, defeating their crosstown rivals for the third time this season, and doing an effective job garnering two points even when all odds were stacked against them.
Part of this success can be attributed to the fourth line, which has been more effective now than it has ever been before.
Once dubbed “the greatest fourth line ever” by hockey analyst Don Cherry, the line has generated the most momentum, amassed the most hits and created the most scoring opportunities for the Isles this season.
Thomas Hickey and de Haan have both played extraordinarily well given how they fared in 2014-15 (even with the latter being injured), while Johnny Boychuk, Travis Hamonic and Leddy have anchored what has been referred to as one of the better young bluelines in the league.
Of course, the Isles wouldn’t be anywhere near this position in the standings without their top-ranked penalty kill unit. Neither would they have had any success if not for Thomas Greiss, who has quickly become a fan favorite.
Garth Snow spared the Isles from losing a bevy of their future at the trade deadline. He’s proving that New York can contend with their current roster, as well.