After an impressive 2020, can the New York Islanders set their sights on winning the Stanley Cup in 2021?
The New York Islanders are are eager to get 2021 underway after a memorable 2019-20 campaign.
The Islanders entered last season as one of the better teams in the league, but began to drop in the standings after going through a pretty dreadful cold streak.
The pause in play due to the outbreak of COVID-19 came to their rescue.
When they resumed play in the Toronto bubble, the Islanders looked like legitimate contenders and proved to be so. Their brick wall of a defense was able to knock out the Florida Panthers and their lethal offense in four games in the qualifying round.
In the next two rounds, they beat two exceptionally dangerous teams in the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers, respectively.
They went on to face the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the Tampa Bay Lightning, in the Eastern Conference Final, which they hadn’t made since 1993, but lost in six games.
They didn’t get to play in the Cup Final, but they looked very good and are clearly going to be a very dangerous team for years to come.
So, what is the Islanders’ number one resolution for the New Year going to be? It shouldn’t be anything short of winning the Stanley Cup.
There are other tasks the Islanders must accomplish in order to get there, and even though the Islanders are now in the most difficult division in the league, a deep playoff run is expected.
1. Make sure Ilya Sorokin settles in comfortably
Russian rookie goaltender Ilya Sorokin is going to be one of the biggest names to watch for the Islanders this season.
He has been stellar in the KHL and is one of the most promising prospects in hockey. He even has pretty good odds of winning the Calder Trophy.Ensuring that he settles in to the NHL, and the team, comfortably is a must for the coaching staff.
The fact that he’ll be sharing goaltending duties with fellow countryman Semyon Varlamov, an experienced and talented veteran, should help him greatly.
If Sorokin lives up to the hype, he can take an already talented Islanders team to the next level.
2. Stay consistent during the regular season
The Islanders started off the 2019-20 season strong but endured one of the worst cold streaks in the league. The stoppage in play was their saving grace.
The Islanders can’t bank on another stoppage in play this upcoming season (hopefully), so going on another prolonged cold streak would be costly. The Islanders are in an incredibly tough division and, in a shorter season, every single game will count.
Head coach Barry Trotz, who’s arguably the best coach in the league, is known for being very disciplined and will likely prevent this from happening again.
Even so, every player on the team must focus tremendously on producing on a consistent basis in order to stay at the top of the division.
3. Win the Stanley Cup
Let’s not beat around the bush. A team that makes it to Game 6 of a conference final against the team that goes on to win it all should have its sights set on winning the cup the next year.
This will — and should be — the Islanders’ priority going into 2021.
The team isn’t perfect, but its strengths outweigh its weaknesses.
The talent of so many of its players, plus that of incoming guys such as Sorokin, can’t go unnoticed and their chemistry is quite unique.
If each player plays to the best of his ability night in and night out, and they can maintain elite play on a consistent basis, there’s no reason why they can’t take home the gold.
The Islanders have a great deal to do correctly during the regular season, but their New Year’s resolution should be nothing short of winning the Stanley Cup.
They have an extremely talented group of players that they’re only strengthening by adding Sorokin (and maybe more). If they can play stellar hockey on a nightly basis the division, and the Cup, is theirs to lose.