The Islanders have their groove back, or at least that's certainly how it seems after a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues allowed New York to improve their record to 5-0-1 over their last six contests. Head coach Jack Capuano thinks so too, and he told reporters as much after the team's victory on Tuesday night.
"I just think that we're playing with some resiliency and some emotion to our game right now," Capuano said. "Whether they tie it up, or we're down by one, I think that we have that no-quit attitude. We got our identity back a little bit."
That identity had certainly been in crisis over much of November, when the team went 2-5-4 before starting this current streak of six straight with at least one point. We've well documented that the Isles had taken a step back from their monster possession season of 2014-15 last year, but they still were not an easy night at the office for an opponent.
They hit hard, they forechecked well, and none of that was present in this season's early stages. Teams enjoyed their trips to Barclays Center (just ask the Lightning). But suddenly, that's all changed.
"Our identity has always been a tough team to play against, that's number one since I've been here," Capuano said. "That's the most important thing. When people play the Islanders, you want to be - as a group - a tough team to play against […] Some of the new guys are starting to get adjusted to the system we play. For whatever reason early on, we didn't have it […] there are no excuses."
That's fair. Maybe, on a team that had the most significant turnover it's had in the better part of a decade, the new players like Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera just needed time to adjust to the Islanders' style of play. Recent performance suggests that those two in particular feel more comfortable (Chimera has three goals in his past five games, Ladd three points over that same stretch). But there's something else at play here, too.
"And at the end of the day, we're getting some good goaltending, too," Capuano concluded.
There it is.
The goaltending is the ultimate cure-all for this team. It feels like I've talked about it ad nauseum, but the Isles give up a lot of shot attempts. On Tuesday, they were out-attempted 61-to-52 in all situations, which is stunning considering the Blues did not have a power play and the Islanders had three.
Thomas Greiss was very sharp and made 24 saves, and if the Isles get that above-average goaltending, it covers up those possession deficiencies. Greiss' performance put the Isles goalies' save percentage now at .939 in the last six games, and that's more than good enough to allow most teams to get the job done.
So while the same caveats exist in this latest win, there is something to this prolonged period of success. Something has clicked, and even if this isn't a perfect hockey team, there's some evidence to suggest that they're remembering what it's like to be a winning hockey team. And that can go a long way.