Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
The Italian Stallion….always the under-sized underdog. Always fighting, scratching, and crawling for whatever scraps he could muster. In the ring, all about offense. If Compubox had been around in those times, it might have broken by the sheer volume of punches he threw.
Yet, there was no defense to be found. Took a beating, ended up battered, bruised and bloody, but always got up. Does the story end the same way for the Islanders, however? That part of the script is still being written.
- At this point of the season, just as valuable as the number of points a team is chasing in the playoff race is the number of teams they have to pass. New York currently sits only a point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins (with a game in hand) and battered New York Rangers (one more game played). The only team in front of them in this chase is the Philadelphia Flyers (even with the Flyers having two games in hand). Awful play or not the past four to five weeks, they're still knocking on the door.
- For the first time in ten games, the Islanders outshot their opponent last night, 46-39, in Chicago. They are giving up shots by the boatload, which isn't as bad as it seems if the heat map looks as it does below, from last night. They need to keep them coming from the outside, and out of high-danger zones.
- Ryan Pulock had himself a night, didn't he? A goal and four assists, becoming the first Islanders defenseman to tally five points since Uwe Krupp in 1993, and first Islander rookie to ever do so. You can see he has been growing in confidence in the offensive zone the past two weeks. Still, an expected work in progress at the other, I'd say his development is coming along just fine.
- Mathew Barzal had a dominating night, possession wise? You don't say? This is becoming a rarity now when he doesn't. He continues his Calder Trophy-bidding rookie season, and now has 49 points in 48 games. Along with the white-hot Anthony Beauvillier and consistent Jordan Eberle, welcome to the third line upon your return, Andrew Ladd.
- Speaking of Barzal, the way he skates, his balance, agility, and seemingly impressive way of avoiding hits has me thinking of a certain superstar who plays in Pittsburgh and wears number 87. It's been fun watching him this year, hasn't it?
- Couple of times last night, up two goals, the Islanders defenseman continue to make ill-advised pinches, leading to odd man rushes the other way. I was impressed last week in the Devils 4-1 win at Barclays Center when they took their two-goal lead, how they just went into complete lock-down mode. New York needs to learn this, and learn it quick. They seem to have only one gear -- forward and attack. In today's NHL, with talent increasing by the day and scoring up, that might not be the best strategy for closing out games.
- Nick Leddy had 24 points in his first 28 games, and his play had people talking about early season Norris Trophy consideration. Since, he's fallen off the pace, notching only five points in his next 20 games. He's a team- worst 22, and appears to be feeling the strain of Johnny Boychuk and Calvin de Haan's absences. Still, he's the ONLY one on the roster who can reliably move the puck in transition from the defensive zone to the offensive zone in possession. They need the old Nick Leddy back.
- Congratulations to Ross Johnston on his first NHL point and first NHL fight. The Islanders have been a soft team to play against, and head coach Doug Weight is hoping Johnston can change that. He did make a defensive coverage blunder that led to a goal as Joel Quenneville smartly got his top line out against the Islanders fourth unit.
- Many people said it at the 2017 NHL draft, but now we are seeing it. Sebastian Aho might be the steal of that year's amateur class. Selected in the fifth round, 139th overall, he has shown some maturity to his game, good outlet passing, and offensive zone instincts. Let's hope the trend continues.
- The trade deadline is Feb. 26, and we shall see what that day holds, specifically for Garth Snow. The Islanders could use a defenseman (duh) who plays…defense. Ottawa is listening to offers on Erik Karlsson (not getting him), and Arizona is rumored to have set a price on Oliver Ekman-Larsson (see above). That leaves a second and third tier of pending UFA Jack Johnson, who is looking to homer in free agency partially because of his 2014 bankruptcy claim, the battered Paul Martin, cement-footed Dion Phaneuf, aging Mike Green and Ian Cole (would Pittsburgh trade him to a wild-card rival?). Pickings are slim, but there are some teams still trying to figure out whether they will be sellers, so we'll see if the market improves any over the course of the next five weeks.