A New York Islanders playoff birth is coming up after failing to make it in each of the past two seasons. The season even without the playoffs is a success by any definition. After losing their franchise player in the form of John Tavares to free agency last summer no one expected much from this team.
New York Islanders Focused On Playoffs
After hiring Lou Lamoriello from the Toronto Maple Leafs. As well, the reigning Stanley Cup winning coach in Barry Trotz the Islander faithful took notice. That same group had a competitive season on their minds but after the disappointment of recent seasons dared not hope for too much.
Goalies Amongst The Best In The NHL
This Islander team and specifically goalies Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner far exceeded expectations. With 10 shutouts evenly shared between them, this combo has been a big part of the New York Islanders Playoff push. Helping the team to win games throughout the season. At times this season, the goalie tandem has been number one and two in the NHL.
They are currently both in the top five. Their save percentages .928 for Lehner and .926 for Griess are amongst the best in the league at the close of the season. Bringing Mitch Korn from the defending Cup champion Washington Capitals turned Greiss around and breathed new life into Lehner’s game.
After an offseason in which Lehner publically spoke of his personal demons and battle with depression, the Islanders took a chance on him. That chance continues to pay huge dividends for the Islanders. Prompting some to regard him as a saviour. His record and results have been consistent all year. That said the Islanders need to give their netminders some offence. Something that they have struggled with of late.
The Power Play
Simply put the Islanders power play has been atrocious lately. While never possessing a great PP unit this season their recent outings have shown the team to be one of the leagues worst. Currently sitting at 29 of 31 NHL teams the Islanders must start scoring on the power play if they want to avoid a first-round sweep. Power play success will be key in securing and succeeding in a New York Islanders playoff run.
Penalty Kill and Defence
The Islanders PK unit is middle of the NHL at 18. They struggle some games to stop and prevent shots and are successful during others. The PK unit has to do more to succeed in achieving the playoffs and finding success therein. If the Islanders are to succeed they need to stop giving up too many opportunities for teams to go 5 v 3. Giving up easy penalties while already on the PK has been deadly to the team during games this year. It has been a team effort in giving up two-man advantages this season.
The Islanders defence has been strong all season. This is no more evident than when one looks at their goals against average. The team despite having been on the receiving end of 2 shutouts this week still maintains a GAA of 2.38. Measured against the league average of 2.99 that mark shows the improvement in keeping pucks out of the net. This was an issue for the Islanders under Doug Weight. Islanders fans are ecstatic in the turn of fortune this season. This has been one of the biggest reasons that the Islanders have turned it around this year.
For a team that has playmakers like Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle, the Islanders have not cracked the top 50 in the NHL individual points or goals. The “play for the badge on the front” mentality Trotz and Lamoriello instilled in the team paid dividends. With that, the Islanders forged their way into the NHL top ten.
That mentality has enabled the Islanders to play as a team. This in contrast to the play of the past 3 seasons. Play in which one player was expected to shoulder the points load. That team-first attitude serves the Islanders well but leaves them exposed heading into the playoffs with injuries to Andrew Ladd and Valtteri Filppula. Though not team leaders in points or goals the two veterans provide important goals when called upon. Also, their veteran presence is something that Islanders would like to leverage during the postseason.
If the Islanders are to make it out of the first round of the playoffs currently underperforming players like Barzal and Josh Bailey need to find their collective scoring groove.
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