The Islanders look to bounce back after an ugly opening week.
Through two games this season, the New York Islanders don’t look like the team that was in the Eastern Conference Final just a few months ago. The offense hasn’t been great, but the real story is the defense, which has allowed a whopping 11 goals already.
This is especially alarming given the fact that the Islanders are a defensive-minded team and are known for having one of the very best bluelines in hockey.
The Islanders have arguably been the worst team in the NHL, so far, and although it’s far too early to make any judgments, things don’t look great.
No matter what happens, it’s fair to say that the organization underplayed the importance of LHD Nick Leddy. 44-year-old Zdeno Chára and soon-to-be 39-year-old Andy Greene as two of the team’s three LHD probably won’t cut it.
The young RHD Noah Dobson isn’t developing as quickly as the organization would’ve hoped, and playing alongside an aging Chára isn’t helping.
The same applies to Scott Mayfield, who’s coming off a strong defensive season in which he played alongside Leddy, but is carrying all the weight next to Greene.
It’s hard to blame the young Ilya Sorokin because the defense has been so bad in front of him, but he hasn’t looked as sharp, either. The offense also isn’t getting it done and the return of LW Matt Martin can’t come soon enough
. Granted, the Islanders’ first two games came against two of the best teams in hockey in the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers, respectively. So the good news is that this week should be easier for them.
Their games likely won’t be as difficult, plus they’ll be getting Martin as well as goaltender Semyon Varlamov back.
At Blackhawks, 10/19
Like the Islanders, the Chicago Blackhawks have gotten off to an atrocious start defensively.
There’s no telling how the Islanders will hold their own in their own zone on Tuesday in Chicago’s home-opener, but this could be the game that gets New York’s offense going.
Players up and down the lineup have the skill and ability to take advantage of Chicago’s many defensive mistakes.
It looks like this is how the Islanders are going to line up against the Blackhawks on Tuesday:
Players to watch based on career numbers vs. Chicago:
Mathew Barzal: 5 GP, 3 G (1PP), 4 PTS
The face of the Islanders as well as their best player, Barzal has played just five career games against the Blackhawks, but has recorded a point in almost all of them.
If we’re going to talk about an Islanders player feasting on a poor defense, it’s Barzal. He should be buzzing throughout this entire game.
Kyle Palmieri: 20 GP, 6 G (2 PP), 15 PTS
Next up is Barzal’s linemate, Palmieri. Palmieri also does a good amount of scoring whenever he plays the Blackhawks.
The fact that two linemates have had a good amount of success against Chicago is a great sign and makes the Islanders’ top line a dangerous one.
Ryan Pulock: 5 GP, 1 G, 5 PTS
One of the best defensemen in hockey and the Islanders’ best blueliner, Pulock has had quite the success offensively against the Blackhawks, averaging a point-per-game in the five matchups between the two teams that he’s featured in.
The Islanders could use some scoring, especially from their defensemen, and Pulock is the guy to look out for in game one of week two.
At Blue Jackets, 10/21
This might be the Islanders’ toughest game of the week, which is surprising given the fact that the Columbus Blue Jackets were one of the worst teams in the NHL last season.
Columbus has been one of the best to start this season and should give New York a tough time in every zone.
Players to watch based on career numbers vs. Columbus:
Zach Parise: 20 GP, 12 G (3 PP), 18 PTS
What might make this game even tougher for the Islanders is that Parise is the only player on the team to have had any real success against the Blue Jackets throughout his career.
His 18 points in 20 games against them are actually quite impressive, and he should be expected to have a strong game on Thursday.
At Coyotes, 10/23
The Islanders will end their week in Arizona. The good news for the Islanders is that the Coyotes haven’t had a particularly strong start to the season and are struggling to get on the score sheet, but New York can’t take that for granted.
If the defense continues to play poorly, even Arizona’s players will find ways to score.
Players to watch based on career numbers vs. Arizona:
Josh Bailey: 17 GP, 5 G (1 PP), 15 PTS
Bailey has done well offensively against the Coyotes throughout his career, and this could be the game that gets him going.
Anthony Beauvillier: 7 GP, 4 G, 5 PTS
The sample size is small, but Beauvillier has done pretty well in the few games he’s played against the Coyotes. The fact that he’s not the only player on his line to have had success against Arizona is encouraging and should be good for him.
Brock Nelson: 14 GP, 5 G (1 PP), 11 PTS
The fact that every member of the Islanders’ second line has played well against the Coyotes throughout their careers puts the Islanders in a good position.
Like his linemates, Nelson has not had trouble getting on the scoresheet when he plays Arizona. Nelson has been one of the Islanders’ few good players to begin the season, and that might continue to be the case on Saturday.
Zach Parise: 34 GP, 13 G (1 PP, 1 SH), 29 PTS
Parise has also had success against Arizona in his career. This could be a big week for the newest member of the Islanders, who ha the potential to break out in the final two games.