Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
The Islanders have been playing solid hockey over their last 16 games, offering the slightest glimmer of hope that a berth in the playoffs for a third consecutive season, while still slim thanks to a rocky beginning, might still be possible.
The players, to a man, all have said there is still plenty of belief in the room among themselves, even if it doesn't exist widespread from the outside looking in. There is no quit in the team as far as playing hard each night for each other, regardless of any assumed or undocumented feelings towards management or the coaching staff.
After a November that saw New York win only four games out of 13 and score 28 goals in the process (2.15 per game), it's been the secondary scoring that has propelled the turnaround over that span, as the team has gone 9-5-2 for 63 percent of possible points, scoring 55 goals (3.44 per game).
Captain John Tavares is still trying to rekindle his 70-point form of last season and 80-point pace of two years ago. He's currently on pace for 61, and has only three multi-point games all season through his first 36. But his linemates and teammates have been more than happy to pick up the slack for the superstar, who at times has single handedly, carried the team through a multitude of struggles over his seven seasons.
Anders Lee has been lighting the league on fire, with nine goals over his last 14 games and Josh Bailey is second on the team in scoring, trailing the captain by three points, and is on pace for a career-best 55 in addition to being one of the best defensive forwards on the team. Of the aforementioned 55 Islander goals over the last 16 games, 30 have come from forwards off the first line with seven coming from defensemen. All told, that's 67 percent of the total being scored from lines/players other than the top trio.
The larger question that still remains when it comes to the outside chance the Islanders can mount a serious challenge and make the playoffs is the defense. Nick Leddy and Travis Hamonic have struggled, to be kind, all season, combining for a minus-26 and poor possession numbers. Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Seidenberg, Thomas Hickey and Calvin de Haan have all had fine seasons, but to a man, the team is allowing more high danger scoring chances and that must be rectified once the team returns from its league mandated five-day bye week.
New York has allowed 52 goals over the same 16 game span (3.25 per game) and they are hoping better team defense comes with the demotion of Jaroslav Halak to Bridgeport, which cleared up the three-goaltender circus, and allows Thomas Greiss, who has won three straight games with a .955 save percentage, more of an opportunity with J.F Berube serving as the primary backup.
Only eight points out of a wild-card spot with two games in hand, the Islanders need to fix certain areas of their game if they are to truly mount a challenge. Working in their favor is the fact they have only seven games remaining against Metropolitan Division opponents Columbus, Washington, the Rangers and Pittsburgh. The Flyers, whom the Isles now chase, have 13 against the same opposition. On February 9, 2015, using history as a mild indicator, the Ottawa Senators were 14 points out of a playoff spot. One Andrew 'hamburglar' Hammond later, they qualified. [S/T to Islanders statistician Eric Hornick].
Beyond the box: Via Hornick, the Islanders have now scored in 15 straight periods and have scored 4-plus goals in five straight games for the first time since Tavares was a rookie….Hickey played in his 300th NHL game, all for the Islanders….Casey Cizikas played 12:20 in his return from a fractured rib and had three shots (two on goal), going 9-8 on faceoffs….Islanders were outshot by the Jets for Saturday's game, 59-41 (34-24 on goal).