Dissecting the Islanders’ Winning Streak

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Dissecting the Islanders’ Winning Streak

Courtesy of Flickr

Courtesy of Flickr

Courtesy of Flickr

Courtesy of Flickr

Chris Hennessy, Contributing Writer

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On Sunday night, the New York Islanders defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 5–3 to extend their winning streak to a remarkable seven games in the span of 15 days. The Isles have been finding ways to win games through solid goaltending and a strong defensive game, while mustering just enough offense to come out on top.

Let’s start with the offense, which has been a topic of discussion around the Islanders since they were eliminated by Carolina last year and coach Barry Trotz stated that they needed to add pieces to the offense to compete. When fans heard this, Derrick Brassard wasn’t at top of their lists, but that’s who the Islanders got. With the absence of a top-tier addition, it was going to be on the top line of Anders Lee, Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle to step up. Lee has three goals and two assists during the streak, but he has been disturbing the opposing goalie and defense in front of the net, which is what he does best. During the streak (10/12 vs Florida—10/27 vs. Philly), Barzal had five goals, and four assists, good enough for the team lead in goals ,and is pacing himself for a career year early. Barzal has been placed with the duty of offensive catalyst, a position John Tavares held for nine years, and it appears that Barry Trotz and staff have gotten the best out of him in that role.

Next are the goaltending and defensive presence. Goaltending was a huge question mark coming into this season. The Islanders let Robin Lehner walk after a Vezina candidate-worthy season and replaced him with the up-and-down Seymon Varlamov. His first two games as an Islander were rough. Varlamov got pulled in the second period against Edmonton, but his last three have been fantastic.  He has played in four of the seven games they’ve won, has let up eight goals and made a remarkable 116 saves during that stretch (2.0 GAA, .953 SV PCT.). Thomas Greiss has been spectacular once again this season and is showing that last year’s remarkable season was not a fluke. The key for both goalies is they are not true traditional number one goalies. Neither one of them is going to succeed playing 60-70 games in a season, but with the system they have now, they will both play between 35 and 45, which is perfect for their production levels.

The defensive game has been the biggest change for the Islanders in the Barry Trotz tenure, and remains the same for this stretch. If you dive into the advance statistics, yes, the Islanders have given up an above average amount of shots, but the shots are low quality. They are keeping players to the outside, clearing the crease so the goalie can watch the puck in and cleaning up any loose rebounds that might be dropped in front. This formula has worked beautifully again this season.

The Islanders have won seven straight games, which is impressive regardless of the month they do it in. Sure, it means less for the standings in October, but two points is two points, and the Isles keep finding ways to get them.