Can the Islanders keep the win streak alive even without their captain?
The New York Islanders came into Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils on a seven-game winning streak as one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Unfortunately, Thursday night’s victory against the Devils came at a cost.
The Islanders lost captain Anders Lee to a lower-body injury that would keep him out of the lineup indefinitely.
Lee has been the Islanders’ most consistent forward and one of their best players this season. What he brings to the table as a player but also as a leader is invaluable and will be missed.
Would the Islanders be able to stay hot without him?
Kieffer Bellows, who hadn’t played in almost a month, would be called upon to take Lee’s spot as the team’s number one left winger. That would be Barry Trotz’s only change to the lineup. Semyon Varlamov got the start in net.
1st period: Could’ve been better, could’ve been worse
The Islanders did outshoot the Devils in the first, but didn’t look particularly dominant.
It was nice to see Oliver Wahlstrom stay hot and score another goal- in this case, one that would tie the game- but fans surely would’ve liked to see more from their team here.
There’s no reason to let a struggling group like the Devils start off strong to potentially go on and win the game.
2nd period: This PP stinks
The Islanders have looked dominant on all fronts except the man-advantage this season. This was evident in Saturday’s game.
They couldn’t get anything done on the power play, especially on their two opportunities in the second period, and that’s a significant reason why they went into the third period down a goal.
The Devils don’t have a great power play either, but it was good to see the Islanders look strong on the penalty kill. Could the Islanders rally for a comeback in the final 20 minutes of the game?
3rd period: Are you kidding me, Kieffer?!
Talk about stepping up. The third period was the Kieffer Bellows show. He scored the game-tying and game-winning goals this period.
His first goal was courtesy of some beautiful playmaking by Mathew Barzal, who continues to prove himself to be one of the best in the game. Bellows was very alert this period and caught the Devils’ defense sleeping one too many times.
He stepped up big time in Lee’s absence and did what was expected of him and more. If he keeps this up he’s going to earn a long-term spot on this team and the Islanders will be in good hands until their captain returns, and maybe longer.
This wasn’t the smoothest of games for New York, but a win is a win. These are the kind of matchups they’re going to have to emerge victorious from if they hope to go far this season.
This is a gritty team with great drive that exhibits great discipline. They head into Sunday’s game on a league-best eight-game winning streak.
Key Moment: The game-tying goal
The key moment of the game for the Islanders was the game-tying goal. It was a huge moment for Bellows, who was returning to the lineup with big shoes to fill.
It gave his teammates as well as himself momentum and he went on to score another to give his team the win.
Barzal has been gaining recognition for his elite ability as a playmaker, and this goal doesn’t happen without him. His strength and speed were put on full display here and an incredible pass to Bellows sealed the deal.
He’s the team’s best player for a reason and makes them one of the most dangerous groups in hockey.
Player of the game: Jordan Eberle
The Islanders’ top line is fantastic, and Jordan Eberle must be given credit for being a huge reason as to why that is the case.
We talked about how the team’s second goal doesn’t happen without Barzal. Well, neither of Bellows’ goals happens without Eberle, who had assists on both.
Eberle showed off his offensive ability here, but also had a very strong defensive game. If he can continue to produce as he has been, the top line will remain effective, even without Lee.
Eberle’s numbers: 17:34 TOI, 2 A, 69.7 CF%, 0.78 iXG, 0.6 xGF, 0.17 xGA, 2.07 GF, 0 GA, 0.88 defensive rating, 0.98 offensive rating, and 1.68 individual rating.
Stats are courtesy of Hockey Stat Cards and Natural Stat Trick.