In what has been a common second half occurrence, Andrew Ladd found the back of the net again on Thursday to help the Islanders walk out of Carolina with two huge points.
With the Islanders already leading 2-0 and New York on the power play to start the second period, Ladd took a pass from Josh Bailey, ripped a wrister, and beat Eddie Lack for his 22nd goal of the season.
"We tried to stick with it, especially losing the personnel that we've lost," Ladd told reporters after the game. "We had guys step in and I think we've simplified our game a little bit."
In 76 games this season, Ladd has 22 goals, eight assists, and 30 points. Dating back to December 23, Ladd has scored 18 goals in 44 games.
I think a lot of fans, myself included, feel a lot better about giving Ladd that mega deal in the offseason now. I've addressed this before, but Ladd was obviously playing hurt early in the year, and combined with trying to justify that big contract in a New York market, it created a perfect storm that nearly sunk his season. But after he took a few games off around the holidays, Ladd has been a completely different player, and he's kept things moving in the right direction down the stretch.
The Isles envisioned Ladd being a boost to their locker room, an asset for a slumping power play, and a winger that may finally allow John Tavares to operate with some space. After the rocky start, I think he's proven to be all three, even if he's not playing on JT's line. The Isles were at their best when they could roll four lines deep and keep putting the offensive pressure on. So with Ladd anchoring the secondary lines with some big offensive numbers in the second half, it's really made opponents have to game plan for more than just the first line. Moving forward into next season, that's a huge benefit, because if the Isles can depend on Ladd for 20-to-30 goals, it's going to open up a lot more possibilities for how whoever is at the helm of this team can construct the lineup come October.