Thursday, November 13, 2014

N.Y. Islanders: Final Season In Uniondale Off To A Fine Start


N.Y. Islanders  10-5-0, 20 points
N.Y. Rangers     7-6-2,  16 points
N.J. Devils         7-7-2,  16 points

New York Islanders: Second Place Isles Trying To Make Swan Song Season In Uniondale A Memorable One.

All three local hockey clubs skated on home ice Tuesday night, and all three achieved victory.  But of the three, it is the New York Islanders presently playing the most meaningful hockey.

While the Devils were in Newark taming the Wild, and the Rangers were battering the Penguins at the Garden, the Islanders were in Uniondale dismantling the Colorado Avalanche by a 6-0 final.

Goalie Jaroslav Halak posted his second straight shutout.  In fact, the Islanders took as many shots against the Avalanche as Halak saved in two games against the Avalanche and Coyotes combined.  

In solidifying their 2nd place position in the Metropolitan Division, the Long Islanders became the fifth team in the conference to achieve double-digit victories and gain 20-points.

They haven't won with smoke and mirrors either.  In this still young season, the Isles own victories over the Rangers, Sharks, Bruins, Kings and Ducks.

They rank 5th in the league in goals per game, and 10th on the power play.  The team's Achilles heal however is their penalty kill, which ranks 29th in the NHL.

After a very tightly contested series against Pittsburgh in the 2012-13 playoffs, the Islanders stumbled last season, particularly early, to post an identical (34-37-11; 79 points) record as in 2011-12.  They finished a disappointing 8th in the Metropolitan Division, and failed to make the playoffs.

This season, however, the Isles are enjoying the kind of start they anticipated having last year.

The change in net has so far served them well.  Jaroslav Halak turned around a shaky start, and now owns a 2.57 GAA, while Chad Johnson is 4-1 in 6 starts with a 2.96 GAA.

After allowing 3.3 goals per game over their first 10 games, Garth Snow's defensive upgrades seem to be finally turning things around as well.  During their current 4 game win streak, the Islanders have allowed a mere 3 goals, and over their last three games the PK has been perfect.

The new blue liners are also adding handsomely to what was already a good scoring team.  Nick Leddy opened the scoring against the Avalanche with his fourth goal of the season, and was assisted by fellow acquisition, veteran Johnny Boychuk, who has 10 points.

Then there is the Isles 1st round pick of the 2010 draft; in his rookie season last year, center Brock Nelson registered 14 goals and 26 points in 72 games.  He already has 7 goals and 15 points in 15 games this season.

With Michael Grabner due back shortly, and a timely return by Josh Bailey, the New York Islanders season stands to get even better.

And so the push to give Uniondale, Long Island one last post-season hurrah proceeds forward.

Next up - the Florida Panthers, followed by a major clash with the Tampa Bay Lightning.


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