Despite the New York Islanders dreary 2017-18 NHL season, beastly forward Anders Lee found a way to make it his best yet.
For the majority of the season, fans saw Lee using his size and physicality in front of the net. This would result in goals, set-ups and especially distraction for the goalie and defense.
Lee is a one-of-a-kind player on the Islanders. Despite few with his size and strength, the winger is the only one to consistently use it effectively every game. Perhaps one of the best improvements of his game was that he stayed in front of the net with physical play and took fewer penalties. His penalties minutes dropped from 56 to 44.
Assuming the difference is in minor penalties, that’s six fewer penalties from the 2016-17 season. It might not seem like the biggest drop, but that’s 12 fewer minutes the Islanders dead last penalty kill unit has to be on the ice for. Therefore, it’s a dramatic difference.
In addition, Lee finally hit 40 goals.
Playing on a line with John Tavares helps, but with the winger’s style of play, he doesn’t necessarily need Tavares to set him up all the time. With the way the 27-year old plays, Lee just needs someone to take a shot at the net for the opportunity to deflect it or stop it and put it home. He broke both goal and point highs set from the 2016-17 season at 34 and 52, respectively, by tallying 40 and 62.
The plus/minus was a drastic change moving from plus-nine to minus-25. When it comes to this category, a lot can be said about the team’s defense and plus/minus isn’t always the best category to go by for an individual performance. This is definitely a bad change, but it isn’t the end of the world for Lee’s season given that the Islanders gave up a whopping 3.57 goals per game, the worst in the league.
However, Lee can be blamed for disappearing at the wrong time.
Despite his point total, he was nowhere to be found when the Islanders lost control of things at the turn of the year. Lee collected 39 points from October-December. After that, it took Lee from the start of January to March 3 to get 10 more points. In that time, the Islanders slipped away from a playoff position.
If Lee could have kept up even just half of his 13 points per month pace from the beginning of the season, perhaps the fortune for the Islanders could’ve been different. Of course, the Notre Dame alumni is not the only one to blame, but when you are playing on the top line, those types of droughts are inexcusable.
Final Grade: A-
Despite the drought, Lee took the next step in his career and is still one of the more consistent forwards on the Islanders. His physical play and net-front presence make him an essential part of this team moving forward.
Now that he’s hit 40 goals, anything less than 35 should be considered low.