John Tavares' power play goal and Kyle Okposo's shoot out tally may have been the difference on the scoring sheet, but the Islanders' defense was the star of the show on Wednesday night.
Nick Leddy and Travis Hamonic led the way with 26 minutes a piece, while Johnny Boychuk assisted on the Tavares' 5-on-3 power play goal. Islanders defensemen registered 13 of the team's 37 shots on net.
After the game, Jack Capuano sung the defense's praises, specifically Thomas Hickey, who played his third game since his return from a lower body injury, all of which have resulted in Islanders wins.
"He's been great," Capuano said. "He takes hits to make plays. To me, that's toughness. He does a lot of good things that really go under the radar."
Brian Erni, SNY.TV
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The defense is a mile better with Hickey in the lineup. Now that he's healthy, it's easy to appreciate just how steady Hickey makes that third pairing, and how it improves the Islanders defense core from top to bottom. On Wednesday, all three pairings did an incredibly job getting the puck to the net. They played lose with a cautious aggressiveness, staying mindful of the Rangers' speed, but still making sure they kept attacking the offensive zone. Leddy was back to his old self, executing a few beautiful carry-ins. I thought Calvin De Haan was a force all night, and Hamonic may have played his best game of the season, asserting himself physically and still being able to force Henrik Lundqvist to turn away five shots.
To me, this is the key to the Islanders' season. The offense is there. There are plenty of guys who are going to find the back of the net. But if the defense can play to the level it did last season, there's just no telling how far this club can go. On Wednesday, the defensive corps announced to the world that they can play with anyone in this division, conference, even the entire league. Let's see if they can sustain this level of play.