All of a sudden, November seems to be Beau’s month, and Nelson isn’t limiting himself to October. Surprising? We think not.
Last year, no one tired of talking about how this Islanders team crushed the odds. The Isles were supposed to finish dead last with more losses than wins because Tavares walked away. Yet, the New York Islanders found a way to finish second in the Metropolitan Division, sweep the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs, and take home several year-end awards.
This year, the Isles aren’t just second in the Metro, they’re second in the entire League after just 20 games. After the Penguins ended the 10-game win streak, the Isles jumped right back up to start a new one.
So, where does this success come from?
First off is absolutely Trotz. Combined with Lamoriello’s switching of jersey numbers, Trotz took the egos out of the locker room. This team doesn’t play for personal records and year-end awards. It plays for the team. Trotz set up a strict coaching regimen and brought every player’s head to ice-level.
As he said after Thursday’s night win over the Penguins in Brooklyn, “We understand importance… [These players] have just become really good pros. They understand that every game is going to be a different challenge and that every game is winnable.”
For proof, look at Nelson. In almost 400 games under various coaches, he had 99 goals and 89 assists. In his 102 games under Trotz, he already has 33 goals and 39 assists. That’s a third the goals and almost half the assists, in less time.
Secondly, though, is actually the lack of Tavares. The fans don’t shout WE DON’T NEED YOU for nothing. When Tavares left, he left a hole in the roster which every player on the team stepped up to fill. Lee and Barzal became playmakers. Nelson became a reliable top center. Cizikas became a goal-scorer.
Besides that, Tavares’ absence gave the Islanders an advantage: Other teams didn’t know how to defend against them because they didn’t know which player was the biggest threat. Barzal was obviously talented, but he wasn’t the top-scorer last year. He preferred to pass. So, if he wasn’t going to shoot, who was? It left every Islander player some room on the ice to perform better than usual.
This season, however, we’re back in that standard with a top threat, and its confusing teams yet again. Barzal is a leading goal-scorer now and is generally becoming a true star. In his three NHL seasons, he’s grown into the threat/top-scoring role perfectly, and he’s opening up the ice for Beauvillier, Nelson, Brassard, Bailey, Eberle… Because he draws the key defensemen to him, the rest of the top lines have that room to work.
As such, the second line is insane this year. Beau has six goals in four games and is proving effective off the puck as well. Brassard moved to the wing and became almost unstoppable. Nelson slumped a little at the start of November, but overall didn’t let the end of Brocktober stop him.
The results? A franchise-best 16-game point streak. That’s still counting.
Next, the Islanders face their California road trip, but is anyone really worried? Even if the Islanders finally lose a game, even in regulation, they’ll jump right back up and do it all again.
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