The Islanders may have ended their win-streak Tuesday night, but their point-streak is still in-tact, and that is certainly what matters more at this point.
Last in the League or not, the Blackhawks are still a dominating team. The fact that the Islanders got a point out of that shamble of a game is so important. It consisted largely of sloppy passing from the Islanders and good, swarming defensive plays by the Blackhawks. Trotz and the players alike admitted that their second period in Chicago was the worst period they’ve played since their atrocious performance in Vegas and was unacceptable. Overall, the game was sloppy and slow, but the first period still showcased the confident and winning attitude the Isles have created for themselves this season. Overtime was full of missed opportunities and good saves on both sides. The shoot-out was a typical, failed shoot-out.
But if a game like that is what the Islanders consider their worst period now, then the second half of the season is looking up.
Not only have the Islanders been accountable this season, they’ve been consistent. October, November, and December saw very typical hot-and-cold play from the Islanders, but even during that period of building chemistry and adjusting to Trotz’s regime, they put together a five-game winning streak at the end of October and early November. Then they went on another five-game win streak at the end of December through the new year and a six-game winning streak that was only recently snapped. The team’s longest losing streak is only three games long. This season, fans can attend games, realistically expecting a win.
The amount this team has improved since last year is almost incalculable because the Islanders aren’t just winning, they’re winning big. The team has led the League in goals against for most of the season, a huge turn around from last season when they bottomed the League in that stat. As well, in 49 games, they have 63 points and only 15 losses, which are two more stats at the top of the League. Without John Tavares to steal the spotlight, eight players have more than ten goals and seven players have more than twenty points. Dal Colle and Toews are playing like professionals rather than rookies. Robin Lehner leads the League in goalie stats and is having the best season of his career. He has three shut-outs, and Griess has two.
For a team that began the season determined to prove people wrong, they couldn’t be excelling more. The only real thing Isles fans can complain about at this point in the season are the special teams. The Islanders’ power play is ranked 24th in the League at 16.7%, and the penalty kill is ranked 17th at 78.9%. Overall, the penalty kill is strong like it has been in past seasons. However, Cizikas, the best player on the Isles’ kill, has taken a lot of penalties lately, which no doubt caused their recent decline in that stat. The power play has simply never worked though, and is the only inconsistent area left in the team’s game that needs to improve as quickly as possible – it really should have been improved months ago.
But going into this bye week and the All-Star break, the Islanders have earned the right to relax. With the shoot-out loss in Chicago, they’re still on a six-game point streak which they can pick up again on February 1st in the Coliseum against Tampa Bay. It’ll be a rough game against another dominating team, but with how they’ve been performing through their first 48 games, the fans should have nothing but faith that the team can take away at least one point, if not both.
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