Let’s not sugarcoat what has happened so far this NHL season for the New York Islanders. The fact that we are in a playoff spot is something that every Islanders fan should be thankful for because the team did not play as well as their record suggests. Here’s what happened in the first month of the NHL season.
The season got off to a dreadful start for the Islanders, losing 5-0 at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets. It would be the last time the Islanders failed to register a goal thus far, however, and are now third in league goal scoring, behind Toronto and Tampa Bay. John Tavares has been the Islanders’ most prolific scorer, notching 12 goals and five assists for 17 points. He also has the highest shooting percentage in the entire NHL among top goal scorers (over 26%). Those 12 goals are second in the NHL to Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The power play is on the rise as well. The Islanders rank 13th in the NHL in power play percentage at 19.1%. That stat has risen dramatically after Ryan Pulock began getting regular time on the man advantage. He has three points in five games played.
Keeping the puck out of the net has been the Islanders downfall thus far. They rank 23rd in the league on the penalty kill at 79.9%. The have also allowed the most shorthanded goals against, two of which came against the Buffalo Sabres back in early October.
Overall, the Islanders have allowed 3.11 goals per game and the goaltending tandem of Halak and Greiss share a .903 save percentage, both way below league average. They have allowed at least three goals per game since October 15 at the LA Kings, with the only exception being the October 28 game against the Predators. What’s troubling as well is that the Islanders have allowed goals to teams that they should be dominating. They allowed over three goals to the Sabres, Rangers, Wild, Coyotes, Ducks, and Sharks, all teams either not in playoff position or have scored a below average amount of goals so far this season. They also allow 32.5 shots per game, a number way above the league average of about 30. As the Islanders proved Thursday night, two shots can make the difference between a win and a loss. Every one counts. Winning teams tend to allow 2.5 goals per game or less. If the Islanders want to be competitive this season, the amount of goals against needs to decrease dramatically.
Speaking of defense, the Islanders are in the league’s basement when it comes to goals from defensemen, something the team prided itself on early last season. Dennis Seidenberg has taken a step back, and Ryan Pulock has been in and out of the lineup. Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy, although shooting the puck a lot, have only found the back of the net a combined one time. The Islanders are lucky only Seidenberg is a minus player.
The Islanders didn’t have the greatest start in their history, but gave themselves a good enough start to finish the season strong. The team needs to play much more in the offensive zone and create more scoring chances. This keeps the puck out of the Islanders zone, thus decreasing goals against and upping goals for. The hot play of the first line is something to get excited about and hope that it continues throughout the season. The schedule only gets harder from here and the Isles’ need to be up to the task.