During a huge weekend, very few noticed consecutive excellent performances by the area’s “other” hockey team, the New York Islanders.
Entering this season, the New York Islanders were not given much thought due to their franchise player John Tavares bolting for the Toronto Maple Leafs via free agency. Fans and opponents had come to respect and consider Tavares a staple within the Long Island community. His departure left the Islanders with a huge hole to fill.
Players and supporters of the New York Islanders have long accepted their place among the “others” in New York sports. On a weekend in which the World Series, Knicks, Rangers, Nets, Devils, Jets, and Giants all played, the Islanders were an afterthought.
However, after starting the season with just six points in their first eight games, the Islanders earned four points this weekend on the road. This was only the second time that the franchise had recorded victories in consecutive days on the road.
GOAL SCORING, GREISS MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
On Saturday, the Islanders scored six goals for the second time this season (scored seven against the Kings on Oct. 18) in a dominating 6-1 win at Philadelphia. The Islanders followed that up with a gritty 2-1 victory at Carolina where Tomas Griess again made the difference.
Despite being outshot 85-40, the Islanders have won both contests by a 2-1 score this season. Griess has stopped 83 of the 85 shots he has seen. In 11 games this season, the Canes are 6-3 against the rest of the NHL and 0-1-1 against the Islanders.
ISLANDERS OFFENSE STARTING TO COME ALIVE
While others weren’t watching, the Islanders received some much-needed offense from players that were struggling to enter Saturday.
Anders Lee scored in both games while totaling five points. Anthony Beauvillier scored his first goal of the season on Saturday. Josh Bailey posted consecutive multi-assist games and is tied for the team lead along with Lee (4 G, 7 A) with 11 points (2 G, 9 A).
While many around the NHL questioned what the Islanders would get from 2017-18 Calder Trophy winner Mathew Barzal, he has shown so far that he won’t suffer from a sophomore slump. Barzal has earned a point in seven of the team’s first 10 games and leads the Islanders with nine assists.
Brock Nelson is in his sixth season with the Islanders and fans have been waiting for him to turn into a consistent goal scorer. After posting a career-high 26 goals in 2015-16, he scored just 39 goals combined in the last two seasons. Through 10 games this season, Nelson leads the team with five goals, two of which came Saturday at Philadelphia.
Free-agent signee Valtteri Filppula is one of five Islanders with 10 or more points this season. In his previous 12 full seasons, Filppula scored over seven points just once in his first 10 games.
TEAM STATISTICS IMPROVED FROM LAST SEASON
Through 10 games this season the Islanders are tied with the Maple Leafs for 10th in the NHL with a +5 goal differential. Last season the Islanders finished 24th with a -32 goal differential. Last season they allowed the most goals in the NHL with 296. This season they are tied with the Canadiens and Devils with the third fewest goals allowed (2.50 per game).
Last season they finished last in the NHL in killing penalties (73.2 percent). So far this season the Islanders rank tied for 12th with Anaheim, killing off 80 percent of their penalties.
After starting the season with seven of their first 10 games on the road, the Islanders will soon enjoy a taste of home cooking. They will host 10 of their next 15 games at home after traveling to the Metropolitan Division leaders Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.
Who knows what players will either rise above or below expectations for the Islanders in 2018-19. However, through 10 games the team has shown that there is life after John Tavares.