Photo Credit: Calgarypuck.com
After winning 2-1 in the first post-holiday game against the Calgary Flames and losing the following game 5-2 against Edmonton, the New York Islanders are currently tied for first place in the Metropolitan Division with 53 points and 26 wins. This is the farthest into an NHL season that the Islanders have held or at least tied for first place in almost 25 years. Looking back at this team last season, the level of play that fans have seen thus far is an unexpected, but welcome treat.
The team has become a serious contender and has sharpened their play in many aspects of the game. The work of underrated players such as Matt Martin, who is one of the NHL leaders in hits this season, has often been the target of criticism for his lack of production on offense. However, the constant pressure that the team has put on opponents is largely in part to Martin stepping up his game. This new and improved Islanders team is now also one of the quickest in the NHL, quite often ending up just a stride ahead of other players, and being able to get to the puck first. While as of late, captain John Tavares hasn’t been having the best offensive performance compared to what he has done in previous seasons, many other players have been helping to fill the spot. Anders Lee has been a huge on-ice presence lately and has a +/- rating of +5.
There is one player missing from the roster. Michael Grabner is now healthy, however, there is no room for him on the roster. Grabner is one of the fastest players in the NHL and fits very well into the Islanders style of play. Hopefully Coach Capuano will make some adjustments to get Grabner back into play, especially after Sunday night’s ugly loss to the Oilers. Lastly, the biggest improvement for the team comes in the form of goaltender, Jaroslav Halak. Goaltending is something that the New York Islanders have struggled with for years, but it appears that the team has finally joined forces with someone who can handle the task. Halak is currently the third highest ranked goaltender in the league with 21 wins and a save percentage of .916. The team continues their road trip tonight in Vancouver.