The month of December has been far from pretty for the Islanders, as they have gone a brutal 3-6-1 in the first 10 games. Today, they have a chance to get a much needed win as the Winnipeg Jets come to Brooklyn. The Isles have been solid at home this year, but have started off their five straight home games with a disappointing 1-1-1 record, all games in which the Isles had a good chance to win. The theme of this season so far has been missed opportunities. The Isles have had a superb season offensively, but often find themselves needing at least five goals per game to get a win, due to the poor goaltending and defense. The Isles have dropped significantly in the Metropolitan Division this month, and need to start winning games to stay in the playoff picture. While it is too early in the season to start calling games a “must win,” this certainly comes close. The Isles are six points out of first place in the division, and just three out of the last spot, which shows how incredibly competitive the Metro is. The Isles have shown they can compete with the best teams in the league, but must improve their defensive play and get stronger performances out of their goaltenders if they really want to make a run.
A Look at the Jets:
The Winnipeg Jets have been a surprise to a lot of people this year, as they come into their matchup with the Isles at a solid 20-10-6 (46 points). They are sitting in second place in their division, and are coming off of a 2-1 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night. Blake Wheeler leads them in points with 41 (9G, 32A), and Patrik Laine leads the team in goals with 18. They have gotten solid goaltending from Connor Hellebuyck who is 18-4-2 with a 2.44 GAA and a .920 save percentage. However, Steve Mason will get the start today.
A Look at the Islanders:
The Islanders are currently 18-13-4 (40 points), and are holding on to the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. Although the Isles are currently in a playoff position, we have seen them continue to fall in the standings, and need to get two points today to keep pace with the rest of the Metropolitan Division. Coming into the game, Josh Bailey is on a 7-game point streak and John Tavares is on a 6-game point streak. The first line of John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Anders Lee has been sensational, and are arguably the best line in hockey right now. Tavares and Lee are tied for third in the league in goals with 21 each. John Tavares and Josh Bailey are tied for second in the NHL in points along with Steven Stamkos with 45. Josh Bailey is second in the NHL in assists with 35, just one behind Jakub Voracek of the Flyers. It is obvious that the first line has been excellent, but the Isles need to get more production out of their bottom six forwards, as the first line will inevitably cool down at some point this year. Expect to see Jaroslav Halak in net again, as he looked relatively good against the Ducks on Thursday night, and with Thomas Greiss looking absolutely awful in his past few performances, I think this should be an easy decision for Doug Weight.
Player to Watch: John Tavares
John Tavares has been one of the hottest players in the NHL of late. He has five consecutive multi-point games, and has 16 points in his last 10 games (5G 11A). Look for Tavares to extend his 6-game point streak today, and possibly record yet another multi-point game.
The Islanders must put an end to their recent struggles and desperately need these two points. Look for them to come out strong and get off to an early lead. I expect to see a solid performance from Jaroslav Halak, as he has shown that he is much better when he plays more than one game in a row. I think the Islanders will tighten up defensively and come away with a 4-2 win.
Islanders Goals: Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal, Nick Leddy and John Tavares
Jets Goals: Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele