Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
I know, I know….21 games is the 'official' quarter mark of the 82-game NHL season. Actually, 20.5 to be exact, but hey, let's keep it simple here, okay?
With another scratchpad not due until next Sunday and the Islanders just completing their 19th game last night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, they will reach that mark in between columns. The Islanders will face the Flyers in back-to-back games -- in Brooklyn on Wednesday and in Philadelphia on Friday.
So, let's get to it:
- In a span of a week, the Islanders have now beaten the two best teams in the NHL on the road. First, it was the Blues last Saturday, 5-2, and now the Lightning last night, 5-3. Tampa came into the game having lost just once in regulation in their last 17 games. That is not a misprint. Look it up.
- Mathew Barzal continues to impress...well, everyone. The rookie has 18 points in 19 games, which ties him with the Coyotes Clayton Keller for the league lead among first-year players. But look beyond the points to a shift in the second period with the team completing a change, and him all alone 1 vs 4 in the offensive zone. I won't spoil it for you.
- Jason Chimera and Andrew Ladd played their best games of the season last night at both ends of the rink. Chimera continues to be snakebitten in the goal department, but after a slow start, he looks to be progressing -- albeit from where he came from, it would be hard not to. The Islanders could use the 18-20-goal Chimera back to bolster that fourth unit.
- Scott Mayfield has now sat the last two games for no other reason that a blue-line traffic jam. I don't see how this can continue, however, with Thomas Hickey clearly struggling.
- Ryan Pulock is moving forward and that's good to see. With consistency in the lineup, he is making all the right plays defensively, and at his age, at this level, not being noticed is a good thing. Trust me.
- Outside of the Lightning first line we saw last night, the second most dominating must be the trio of John Tavares, Anders Lee and Josh Bailey. They have now combined for 29 goals and 37 assists in 19 games. And Bailey wasn't on the line for the first 10 games. They have a 41 percent goal share and 34 percent point share.
- I'm not sure what to think of Anthony Beauvillier at this point. I do know he's more of a fit, in my opinion, at center, rather than the wing, where he is still not strong enough to win most puck battles. With Nikolay Kulemin out a long time, when Shane Prince comes back, could he be ticketed for a trip to Bridgeport to build up some confidence?
- After going scoreless for three games following a scorching streak, the Islanders have now produced a power play goal in each of the past two games on five attempts. That is most certainly going to have to continue for the team's longterm success.
- Defensively, this team still worries me. Not only do they have a bad habit of not being able to execute the simplest of plays, like clearing the zone unpressured, but they have also allowed over 30 shots 14 times in their first 19 games.
- Let's hope Thomas Greiss has grabbed the starter's job by the collar after his latest string of performances. Greiss was superb in St. Louis, got victimized by some bad bounces against the Hurricanes, and came up big again last night in Tampa. At the end of the day, it's going to be up to the team to cut back on the high danger chances against to aid in this effort.
- The true judge, jury and executioner always comes dressed as the Stanley Cup playoffs, but head coach Doug Weight is now 35-18-6 (.644) as a bench boss. In addition to being honest and candid with the media and fanbase. I'd say, to date, he has more than surpassed expectations.
- Per Eric Hornick, the Isles have scored 5+ goals in 3 straight games (excluding shootouts) for 1st time since Jan.-Feb. 2006. The offense keeps rolling along (only Tampa and Toronto have scored more goals).