19 games is all that remains of the 2016-17 regular season. That's right, I said 'regular season'. The New York Islanders languished in, or close to, last place in the Eastern conference for almost the entire first half before a 24-12-7 (64% of possible points) run put them right back into playoff contention.
And while the Islanders have certainly been helping themselves, there is no shame in accepting a little more assistance on the side from your friends, as the out-of-town scoreboard has been kind to them recently, as well.
3-1-1 on their current franchise record nine-game road trip, they now head on their annual Western Canada trip to face the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks before closing out in St. Louis as they make their way back towards Brooklyn.
- The turnaround under Doug Weight, while garnering impressive results (13-5-3), has not seen a change in the Islanders style of play, nor most of their statistical indicators outside of the record itself. The aforementioned record in their past 43 games includes a record of 11-7-4 under Jack Capuano. However, it is hard not to see the different look to the team, per the eye test. The theory of a 'new voice' being sometimes needed is in full effect, as Capuano's message was now clearly being received on plenty of deaf ears.
- New York's next four opponents are a combined 126-105-24 and two of those are going to the playoffs -- Edmonton and Calgary, with St. Louis on the fringe. It just won't get any easier heading home either, as the Carolina Hurricanes await in a back-to-back, and they always give the Islanders fits.
- Are there any two players that have benefited from the coaching change more than Andrew Ladd and Ryan Strome? Ladd, a notorious second half player, has nine goals in 18 games and Strome has 14 points in 21 games, a 55-point pace.
- Anthony Beauvillier continues to impress at center, his natural position. Playing on a fourth line last night with Nikolay Kulemin and Cal Clutterbuck, he was his usual pesky, annoying self in 10:50 of ice time. For a 19-year old, the maturity he has shown this year is a fantastic sign for his future in blue and orange.
- The Josh Ho-Sang number firestorm is absolutely the most overblown, ridiculous storyline of the season, perhaps across the entire league. Kids of all ages pick a number to honor their favorite player or idol, and it typically sticks. I chose 19 when I played for 30 years for my favorite player of all-time, Steve Yzerman, who chose it himself to honor Bryan Trottier, the hall of fame Islanders center. Penguins/hockey fans and writers need a better story.
- Ho-Sang has not disappointed in his first two games since being recalled from Bridgeport. Sure, he will make some rookie mistakes, as to be expected, but he has shown a high hockey IQ and deft passing touch. As he builds his strength, the rest of it will be mental for the 21-year old as to how far he can take the opportunity.
- To Weight's credit, he has not been shy to put the rookie in some veteran situations either. Power play two time, 17 minutes in his debut plus 14 last night, cut a little short at the end with New York protecting 1-0 lead in Chicago. He also gave him a chance to show his skills in the shootout, where he was denied by Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford.
- Thomas Hickey was a healthy scratch last night, a move that didn't go over too well with the defender, per Newsday's Arthur Staple on Twitter. But it was the right call. Over the past three seasons, Hickey, per Corsica hockey, has taken 401 hits in 203 games, second on the entire team only to Johnny Boychuk (468). And lately, he has looked like that is beginning to take its toll.
- Mathew Barzal continues to ignite the WHL, but what did everyone expect? A player that close to the NHL SHOULD put up the numbers (76 points in 39 games) he has against opposition that just simply is not at his level. There still is no guarantee that transfers to the NHL, but he should get his chance come September. I get the feeling he's going to make it very hard on Islanders management to stash him in Bridgeport for a season.
- Thomas Greiss is 44-23-8 as an Islander, with 2.42 GAA and .922 save percentage. He struggled against Columbus and to a degree, Dallas, but was superb last night in a hostile environment with a tired team in front of him. Take out those aberrations, and the goaltender has allowed only two goals combined in three of his last five starts.
- We can assume what Weight's decision to play Greiss in a back-to-back with nine games in 16 days means for J.F Berube, right? The goaltender has not had much game action but in the games he has appeared in, have not looked good. Confidence is huge in the position, and Berube's can't be high right now. With Christopher Gibson out injured for the remainder of the season, Snow chose not to move Jaroslav Halak for fear of an injury on the big club. Why isn't Halak up and Berube down? With J.F requiring waivers, if he was to get claimed, the Islanders are once again, left with no logical option should something happen to Greiss. It might be a downer for Halak and his fans, but in the best interests of protecting the big club, it is what it is.
- What's going to be more interesting is to see how the Islanders handle the goaltending mess that, yes, Snow created, in the off-season. Berube is going to unrestricted free agency and I would be never more shocked if he signs to remain. Could there be a reconciliation between Snow and Halak/agent Allan Walsh? Sure, but I don't get the feeling Jaro wants to be a backup or even part of a 50/50 split.