Andrew Ladd looked like a $38.5-million bust for the better part of three months, but suddenly, the Islanders alternate captain is right in the middle of the team's resurgence.
With the Islanders trailing 5-4 and Thomas Greiss pulled in favor of an extra attacked, Ladd deflected home a slap-pass from Josh Bailey past Frederik Anderson and into the net with just 1:29 left in regulation.
"A lot has to go right to get one there, from the draw to getting set up along the wall and in front," Ladd told reporters after the game. "You've got to have a short-term memory on your mistakes at times like this. Win or lose, you move on to the next one."
The goal was Ladd's 12th of the season, and his fourth in his last five games. Dating back to December 23 (14 games played), Ladd has eight goals (10 points).
I think it's clear as day to see that Ladd wasn't healthy at the season's onset. Hockey players are notoriously proud and don't use injuries as an excuse, but he'd been a different player since he sat out four games in January to rest an ailment. For so long it looked like maybe Ladd was just a bad investment. Now, it seems like he just needed some time to adjust and heal.
It's easy to forget that this time last year, almost every Islanders fan was clamoring for Garth Snow to trade for Ladd. Sure, he would have looked even better alongside Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen, but there's a reason he was such a hot commodity at last year's deadline, and Monday night's game-tying goal was a great example. This is a player who's competed in every kind of big game before. He's battle-tested, and now that he seems to be healthy, he's thriving even without playing on John Tavares' wing.
Can he keep it up? He'll have to for the Islanders to reach the playoffs. But with Ladd clicking and the kids line producing as well, New York's offense looks as good as it has in a very long time.