New York Islanders Keys To Making the Playoffs

Jaroslav Halak
New York Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak makes the save at the Barclays Center on December 11, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

The Metropolitan division is the toughest division in hockey. There is little separating the top six teams in the division right now. The top three teams will automatically make the playoffs, while the fourth and fifth place teams are likely to take the Eastern Conference wildcard spots. With that in mind, the New York Islanders are in the mix, but must continue to play well to earn a playoff spot this April.

New York Islanders Keys To Making the Playoffs

Goaltending Improvements Needed

30 games into the season and the New York Islanders are scoring goals at a blistering pace. The team currently sits in second place in the NHL for goals scored. With two forwards in the top three in the league in goals scored, captain John Tavares (18) and Anders Lee (17). Can the Islanders keep up that goal-scoring pace for the remainder of the season? Can they find their way into the playoffs? That remains to be seen.

Mitigating all of the goals scored by the Islanders is a horrific goals-against average. While the Islanders are second in the NHL in the league for goals scored with 106, they are amongst the worst in goals against. In addition, they reside in seventh-worst in the league with 99 goals against. There have been a number of defensive lapses throughout the first 30 games that result in allowed goals. But the primary reason for that goals against average is the performance of Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak. In a pre-season article, I wrote that the Islanders needed these two goalies to have solid years. For the Islanders to be competitive in the Metropolitan this is a must. The Islanders goalies have not only failed to have career years but have slipped a bit by allowing soft goals and making poor defensive decisions.

Greiss Leaking Goals At A Rapid Rate

Heading into the season Doug Weight and the Islanders made the decision to go with Greiss as the number one goalie. He and Halak had similar win-loss records and save percentages through the 2016-17 season and the choice of Greiss seemed like a toss-up. in the 2017-18 season, Greiss has an astronomical 3.79 goals against average thus far. His save percentage has dipped to .890 as well, lending itself to the deployment of Halak more often this season. The rest of his stats reflect the downward trend and he now has significantly fewer minutes, (792) played than Halak (1,022.) The single bright spot is a better win-loss ratio, 8-3-2 with five fewer games played than Halak. If the Islanders are to challenge in the Metropolitan, Greiss needs to improve his netminding.

Halak Stands On His Head But Remains Inconsistent

Halak has become once again the Islanders defacto number one goalie. It is a position that he has held often. He relinquished that space for the majority of 2016 as he was sent by Jack Capuano to the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Though he began this season as the number two goalie behind Greiss, his performance this season and last has been better. His record of 9-7-1 shows a 2.82 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. His win-loss record and his GAA point to the inconsistencies in Halak’s game. Depending on the game he might stand on his head to will the Islanders to a win or he might perform as poorly as a target placed in the goal, allowing snipers to shoot at will. His decision-making has been called into question several times this season as miscues and mishandling to his defensemen led to opposing goals. Halak needs to be a consistent performer to bring the Islanders into the playoffs. If his decision-making improves they will find themselves in the hunt. If not, the Islanders and their fans will be watching the playoffs from the couch.

The Islanders Offense Scoring At Will

The Islanders are an offensive force anytime they hit the ice.  Additionally, the team is second in the NHL in goals scored. However, this is only part of the story. So far this year Lee is having a great season. His 17 goals narrowly trail captain Tavares who leads the Islanders with 18. Josh Bailey continues to build on a career year in 2016. He leads the Islanders in points with 33. His 28 assists speak to the work that he does to create scoring opportunities in the offensive zone. Also, Mathew Barzal continues to amaze fans and opponents alike with his speed and stickhandling skills. He has the ability to create scoring chances for the Islanders. This happens whether he shoots or draws defenses to him before a timely pass. That ability is reflected in his stats, 30 games played, eight goals and 20 assists, for the year and the inability for many opposing defenses to shut him down. If the Islanders are to make a push Barzal and Bailey will be a factor.

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