Josh Bailey has remained red hot, and it boosted the Islanders to a much-needed victory to start their nine-game road trip.
Bailey opened the scoring in the first by stealing a Petr Mrazek pass and firing a wrister past the Red Wings goaltender to give the Islanders an early 1-0 lead. Then, with the Isles up 2-1 just under four minutes into the third, Bailey gloved down a Wings' clearing attempt at the blue line, skated toward the middle, faked a big shot, then cut toward the far circle. Bailey centered a pass to John Tavares, who roofed one over Mrazek to give New York all the breathing room it would need.
"Obviously, there's a lot of luck involved there," Bailey said of his set of up Tavares. "I was staying on the wall hoping that he would throw it down the middle and I could get to it, but he fanned on it a little and that's how I got it. We were laughing on the bench because I had to wait for Anders (Lee) to get out of my way so that I could shoot."
With the two point game, Bailey tied his career-high in points (41) in just his 59th game of the season. He set that career-high back in 70 games back in the 2014-15 season.
All hail Josh Bailey: Elite winger!
I'll admit, I'm a fan of Bailey, and I feel a little vindicated by his incredible performance this season. I know there are still some fans who say that Bailey's success is simply because he's the benefactor of playing with Tavares, but that's just not fair. In order for this line - which as our friend Garik16 points out, has been the fourth-best line in the entire NHL in adjusted Corsi - to succeed, all three players need to thrive. Otherwise, teams could just clamp down on Tavares and completely cancel out its effectiveness. Bailey, and Anders Lee for that matter, have been so strong this season that they deserve just as much praise as JT for the top line's success.
For all Bailey has had to endure, the big expectations and the fan ire, he has handled it all like a complete gentleman and a professional. So to see him thrive like this has been a treat, and for the Islanders' sake, I hope he's finally unlocked something that will allow him to be a top line player for a long, long time.