CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

Carolina's Andrej Nestrasil celebrates his second period goal against Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak. (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)
Carolina's Andrej Nestrasil celebrates his second period goal against Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak. (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

Box score

The Islanders gave up five second-period goals in a 6-3 loss at Carolina Saturday. Isles goalie Jaroslav Halak gave up six goals on 28 shots before he was pulled in favor of Thomas Greiss in the third period.


New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports Images)
New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports Images)

The New York Islanders face the Carolina Hurricanes on the road Saturday at 7 p.m.

According to STATS:

  • The Hurricanes have scored multiple power-play goals in four of their last six games against the Islanders, while the Isles have scored 18 power-play goals over their last 16 games against Carolina.
  • The Islanders, who have won three straight contests, can match their season-long win streaks (four games -- October 12-20 and November 28 -- December 4) with a win on Saturday night.
  • The Islanders have scored at least one power-play goal in four straight games -- one shy of their season-long streak (five games -- October 23-31), and have allowed just three power-play goals over their last 13 games.
  • Defenseman Johnny Boychuk has scored two goals over his last three games, after scoring just two goals over his previous 34 games.
Tags: Carolina Hurricanes , Johnny Boychuk

Feb 9, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo (70) makes a save against New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) during the third period at Nationwide Arena. New York beat Columbus 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports (Russell LaBounty)
Feb 9, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo (70) makes a save against New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) during the third period at Nationwide Arena. New York beat Columbus 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports (Russell LaBounty)

(AP) -- John Tavares has ended his slump in emphatic fashion. A matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes isn't likely to slow him down.

Tavares looks to extend his scoring surge and help the New York Islanders match their longest winning streak of the season Saturday night.

Tavares has five goals and seven assists over the past eight games, exactly matching his production over the previous 24.

"I never worried or doubted that the points were going to come," coach Jack Capuano told the team's official website. "He's had a lot of chances and works hard. But it's good to see Johnny get the points. As he goes, we go."

That's certainly been true during a three-game winning streak as Tavares has six points after tallying a goal and an assist in a 5-2 win over Los Angeles on Thursday.

"I just want to keep doing the right things," Tavares said. "I think I've been playing well for a few weeks and I want to be consistent, keep it going and create opportunities."

That shouldn't be a problem since the All-Star center has 28 points over his last 16 meetings with the Hurricanes, including 13 in six visits to Raleigh.

Tavares, though, was kept off the score sheet in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Hurricanes at home Oct. 29.

After averaging 2.5 goals in a 4-5-1 stretch, the Islanders (29-18-6) have scored 16 during three straight wins. They are 4 for 10 on the power play in those games.

"We're getting more of a rhythm coming out of our own end, getting up into the neutral zone," Tavares said. "Guys are making plays and we're starting to put some more pucks in the net."

New York has 14 goals in a three-game win streak at Carolina (24-21-10), and is 5-1-2 in its last eight visits.

Brock Nelson is tied with Tavares for the team lead with 20 goals, but hasn't scored in five consecutive games. However, he has three in his last two road games with the Hurricanes.

Carolina opened this three-game homestand with a 2-1 shootout loss to Pittsburgh on Friday after falling by the same score in a shootout at Montreal on Sunday.

"When it gets late, gets to those dying moments, it always gets nerve-racking," coach Bill Peters said Friday. "I thought the guys did a good job staying with it."

Andrej Nestrasil forced overtime against the Penguins by scoring with 5:28 left in regulation. The center has three goals in three games to match his total from the previous 30.

The Hurricanes are unsure if they'll have Justin Faulk available after a lower-body injury sidelined him Friday. The All-Star defenseman leads Carolina with 34 points and his 15 goals match his career high from last season.

"Day to day means day to day," Peters told the team's official website.

Jeff Skinner, who had his five-game point streak snapped Friday, has six points in as many home matchups with the Islanders.

Cam Ward made 25 saves against the Penguins, giving Carolina at least a point in each of his past eight starts. He is 4-0-4 with a 1.79 goals-against average in those games.

Ward, who could be rested in the second of this back to back, is 18-3-3 with a 2.62 GAA in his last 27 games against New York.

Copyright 2016 by The Associated Press


New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. (Charles LeClaire/USATSI)
New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. (Charles LeClaire/USATSI)

The Islanders have zero interest in trading defenseman Travis Hamonic for Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba now or in the offseason, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple.

Hamonic, 25, has had his name involved in trade rumors for most of this season. After the 2012-13 season Hamonic signed a team-friendly contract extension for seven-years worth $27 million.

He has four goals and nine assists in 49 games played this season.

Andy Graziano, SNY.TV: The Jets signing of Dustin Byfuglien certainly opened things up in regards to Trouba. With reports out of the Jets young, pending restricted free agent's camp that he is starting at a multi-year extension worth seven million per, I don't see this as a match at all in a swap for Hamonic. In fact, I would be hard pressed to believe Garth Snow ever considered it at any great length.

As hard (or even impossible) as it is going to be to find someone with the ridiculously good contract that Hamonic is signed to, Snow does want someone with term. Not restricted term. True term. Why would he want the headache of negotiating with Trouba and his representation, who as Arthur Staple noted, has been behind some recent holdouts.

From the Jets side, of course they would move Trouba for Hamonic. I'm not here to knock Jacob or his game, but he is still very raw playing the game's toughest position to master. Who knows what he will become? But all reports have him not exactly being in the seven million a year range. I believe if they (the Jets) could get that done yesterday, they sign off and never look back.

For me, there is a reason Trouba is still in Winnipeg and Hamonic is still in New York. Because this deal just doesn't match up, right now at least, from the Islanders camp.

Tags: Travis Hamonic

New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) celebrates his goal during the second period against the Los Angeles Kings at Barclays Center. (Anthony Gruppuso)
New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) celebrates his goal during the second period against the Los Angeles Kings at Barclays Center. (Anthony Gruppuso)

It's the debut of a new weekly column here at SNY's Islanders Point Blank, as Andy Graziano and Brian Erni will trade opinions on two of the hot topics working their way around the Islanders and give their two cents.

The last week (February 2-11) saw the Islanders go 4-2-0, with victories over the Minnesota Wild, Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Los Angeles Kings. Their losses were to the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings. They played extremely well in five of the six, with the Detroit loss being the only exception.

It begs the question, what do the Islanders need, if anything, at this year's trade deadline, set for Monday, February 29 at 3pm ET?

Andy Graziano: More importantly, in my opinion, what is available and at what cost? We have seen the rental market in previous years cost an absolute ton, much more than I feel general manager Garth Snow wants to spend, especially if you feel, as I do, that this team is not quite ready for a true Stanley Cup run just yet. You are not moving your prized possessions in a Dal Colle, Barzal, Pulock or Ho-Sang for a rental. New York doesn't have a 2016 second round selection, which seems to be the winning price for a rental player anyway, often times paired with a prospect.

They certainly could use an upgrade at the sixth/seventh defenseman spot, currently being held by Brian Strait and Marek Zidlicky. In terms of the forwards, if you add one (I've heard Andrew Ladd thrown around a lot), who are you taking out of the lineup? Josh Bailey is not the sexiest player and often finds himself taking the brunt of fans frustrations, but does enough things well that the coaching staff appreciates, keeping him in the lineup. I think the Islanders remain very quiet this year, with the exception of possibly a minor depth move as mentioned.

Brian Erni: I completely disagree that this team isn't ready for a run to the Final yet. If the Isles get in, I wouldn't be surprised if they're this year's Lightning. Outside of Washington, who is really that much better in the East? And the Capitals have so many playoff failures hanging around their neck that I'd certainly feel comfortable taking my chances against them in a seven-game series.

With that in mind, I, too, think the Isles remain quiet, and for good reason. I think this team has everything it needs to succeed in house. Everyone would ideally like more defensive depth, so it's hard to come by. There aren't many teams that can match up with the top four d-men the Isles have, and there's no reason to move a piece for a rental for your third pairing when the Isles have shown they have NHL-ready defensemen waiting in the wings at Bridgeport. The offense has come alive the last week, as results are finally starting to match up with the analytics. I think this team, as currently constructed, will be very dangerous come the spring.

Looking ahead, out of the three Islanders most talked about with regards to their contract/personal situations, who stays and who goes?

Andy Graziano: This has been talked about by almost everyone in Islanders media as well as the fan base over the last couple of weeks and with good reason. With the trade deadline looming, that is generally when you see players with contract statuses such as Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo both be dangled as rentals to teams ready to contend for the championship. I don't think the Islanders will do that, at all. They need to win a playoff round and you are not doing that without both of those players. The time to stockpile prospects and draft picks is over. It's perfectly clear to me that the Islanders are 'stuck' in the middle. Not quite ready to win a cup, but also not ready to sell their upcoming free agents as rentals.

I believe Nielsen will stay at around $4-4.5 million per season and Okposo will seek, and find, greener pastures elsewhere. I don't feel Snow wants to pay the 6.5 million plus that he will almost certainly be offered by a rival GM on a long term deal. That leads us to Travis Hamonic, probably the toughest to figure.

We know Travis wants to be closer to his Winnipeg home. We also know he is committed to the process, as long as it takes, and has not seen his performance slip at all. That is being a true professional. But Snow owes it to the organization and his bosses to get the best possible return for the young defenseman signed on a ludicrously good contract. And that is going to be almost impossible to find. Dustin Byfuglien just got a 7.5 million extension in Winnipeg. Jacob Trouba is reportedly asking for 6 million + to start his extension talks. See what I mean?

I think it happens, but closer to the 2016 NHL draft in Buffalo rather than the February 29 trade deadline. As I mentioned above in regards to the Islanders not being able to win without Nielsen and Okposo, it's even more pronounced for Hamonic, especially if you can't replace him with a player of a similar skill set. Right now, you can't.

Brian Erni: I know most people are assuming that Nielsen will stay and Okposo will go, but I'm going to go a little against the grain and say they both depart as free agents. There will always be someone who's willing to overpay, especially for guys who have both the skill set and leadership qualities of Okposo and Nielsen. Frans has certainly said all the right things about wanting to say, and I believe he's sincere. I just think he may very well get bowled over by a bigger offer this summer. And I agree that Okposo's asking price will be the ultimate reason for his departure. Either way, both of these guys are needed for a playoff run, so you have to take the risk, see how far they can take you this spring, and go from there.

As far as Hamonic, I'm going to be an optimist and say he stays in Brooklyn for the long haul. Obviously, no one knows Travis' personal situation, but as a fan who loves the way the guy plays and admires the kind of person he is off the ice, I hold out hope that the longer he remains an Islander, the more willing he'll be to work around the distance between him and his Manitoba home. Garth has shown he's not going to give him away, and unless someone comes along offering fair value (which isn't an easy thing to do), I don't see Travis going anywhere.

Tags: John Tavares , Kyle Okposo , Travis Hamonic , Brian Erni

New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss (1) stands for the national anthem before playing the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. (Charles LeClaire)
New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss (1) stands for the national anthem before playing the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. (Charles LeClaire)

I hope everyone has had their breakfast/brunch/lunch before reading what I am about to type. Otherwise, it might ruin your appetite.

Jeff Hackett. Mark Fitzpatrick. Steve Weeks. Jamie McLennan. Eric Fichaud. Wade Flaherty. Felix Potvin. Wade Dubielewicz. Yann Danis. Martin Biron. Kevin Poulin. Anders Nilsson. Chad Johnson. Michael Nuevirth.

Everyone still with me? Those were some of the names since the 1990-91 season that have held down - or clung onto for dear life - the backup goaltender position for the New York Islanders. Fans would cling to every lineup announcement by the head coach and cringe when told the backup was in goal on a particular night.

Boy, how times have changed. In the summer of 2015, general manager Garth Snow went out and on the first day of free agency, sought to remedy that issue. After rolling with Chad Johnson (3.08, .889) and Michal Neuvirth (2.94, .881) last season as understudies to Jaroslav Halak, he signed Pittsburgh Penguins backup Thomas Greiss to a two-year contract worth three million dollars.

So many people point to the Islanders shootout loss in their final regular season game at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum as costing them home ice in the first round of the 2014-15 playoffs, a series they would eventually lose in Washington in Game 7. I give you another scenario…what if the New York backup goaltenders were better than 9-11-3, 3.03, .888? I also realize there are so many factors that led to New York missing that one extra point that it's almost unfair to point to just one. The two above could be thrown into a mix with several others (what if, during that game in October? etc.…)

Greiss has been, in a word, remarkable this season and has played much more than a backup normally would at this stage. Halak, never considered durable during his career, has missed time twice with upper body injuries and has only seen action in six more games than his backup. Now two away from his career-high in games played and coming off his 50th career victory in Sunday's drubbing of the Edmonton Oilers, some might even say he has been the team MVP this season. Who am I to argue?

After last night's 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings (are they good? Oh, yeah, only won two Stanley Cups in the last five years), Greiss is the best backup goaltender in all the land, sporting a 15-6-2 record, 2.24 goals against and .929 save percentage with a shutout to his credit. More importantly, how about this statistic? In games after Islanders losses, Greiss is 9-3 with 2.23 GAA and .925 save percentage. Talk about not letting negative momentum take over.

Now, since all statistics are taken with a grain of salt, it is worth mentioning that Greiss does get almost a goal per game more than the average in support - 3.44 in his games opposed to league average 2.62. Halak, on the flip side, gets 2.38 in average goal support. Is that indicative of the Islanders being more comfortable or 'loose' when Greiss is in goal, allowing them to play more of a free flowing style? Possibly, but impossible to accurately say. It has been seen in the past that teams, for whatever reason, tend to play better when a certain someone is between the pipes.

To listen to his teammates after last night's win just reinforces the kind of confidence they have in their goaltender.

Captain John Tavares: "He's been great all year. He made some big saves for us. It was nice to give him a lead, and get the win."

Casey Cizikas: "We got shots on net and getting saves when we need them. (Thomas) Greiss had some huge saves out there today. (Those saves) kind of got us going and he gave us the opportunity to get out to the lead and we did."

Greiss, in spite of all the praise, remained grounded: "The team played great in front of me. Thought it was one of our best efforts all season. The goal right after they scored was huge."

You could pretty much write those quotes in stone and just show them after each of Greiss' 23 appearances so far in 2015-16. It's been the same, consistent approach that has led to the Islanders having the best goaltending tandem they have had in a long time. Without question, Griess is giving them the goaltending they've never seen in a backup goalie before.

This is a tandem that, finally, doesn't have Islanders fans on the edge of their seat waiting for that game day announcement. Whether it's Halak or Greiss, it's one thing that coaches and fans alike have come to depend on.

But in the end, Greiss might just be, unexpectedly, the missing piece to a winning formula. 

Tags: Jaroslav Halak , John Tavares , Thomas Greiss

New York Islanders center John Tavares celebrates his goal with teammates during the second period against the Los Angeles Kings at Barclays Center. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports Images)
New York Islanders center John Tavares celebrates his goal with teammates during the second period against the Los Angeles Kings at Barclays Center. (Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports Images)

The Islanders raced out to a quick start and cruised to a 5-2 win against the Pacific division-leading Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.

New York scored three goals in the first in the first 14 minutes of the game on tallies from Johnny Boychuk, Casey Cizikas and Anders Lee.

"They're an unbelievable team," Cizikas said of the Kings. "They've got size, skill, grit. For us to come out the way we did, it's big for our club moving forward."

With the victory, the Islanders improved to 15-4-2 against Western Conference teams this season, 12-0-2 at home.

"I think we're a confident team in here right now," Cizikas said. "We all know what we're capable of."

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

This was quite the victory. It really seems like this team is hitting its stride. I know Jack Capuano wasn't happy with the puck management in the second and third periods, and of course the Isles didn't have to face Jonathan Quick, but I'm not going to get too nitpicky. The Isles have won three in a row and four of their last six. In a playoff race in which every point in paramount, getting two against a good quality team like L.A. feels great.

It's been incredible how well the Isles have handled the Western Conference. Keep in mind that last year, they went 14-12-2 against the West. This season, they're outskating and overmatching these teams with ease. That's no small feat. The clubs in the West are extremely balanced, with three or four legitimate Stanley Cup contenders right at the top. Despite their unevenness this season, the Islanders have proven they can skate and hang with anyone, especially on their home ice, where they'll end the season undefeated against the opposite conference. Hopefully, they'll get a chance to assert themselves at Barclays Center against a Western Conference team come June.

Tags: Anders Lee , Casey Cizikas , Johnny Boychuk , Brian Erni

The Kings' Anze Kopitar tries to maintain posession against the Islanders' Calvin de Haan. (Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)
The Kings' Anze Kopitar tries to maintain posession against the Islanders' Calvin de Haan. (Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

Box score

NEW YORK --  John Tavares had a goal and an assist, Thomas Greiss stopped 28 shots and the Islanders scored three times in the first 14 minutes and beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-2 on Thursday night.

Johnny Boychuk, Casey Cizikas and Anders Lee all scored in the first period and Travis Hamonic added an empty-netter in the third to help the Islanders win their third straight overall and third in a row at home. New York improved to 15-4-2 against Western Conference teams this season and moved three points behind the crosstown-rival Rangers for second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Kyle Clifford and Milan Lucic scored, and Jhonas Enroth finished with 25 saves for the Pacific Division-leading Kings, who had won three straight on the road. Los Angeles was coming off a 9-2 win at Boston on Tuesday night in the opener of a seven-game, 12-day road trip.

Read more. . .


 (Anthony Gruppuso)
(Anthony Gruppuso)

The Islanders host the Kings on Thursday night at 7 p.m.

According to STATS...

  • These teams last met on November 12, when the Kings edged the Islanders in Los Angeles, 2-1. The victory improved the Kings' record against New York to 10-1-2 since the beginning of the 2006-07 season.
  • The Kings erupted for nine goals in a 9-2 pounding of the Bruins at Boston on Tuesday. It was the Kings' most goals in any game since routing Chicago at home, 9-2, on New Year's Day 2008. And it was Los Angeles' most goals in a road game since bludgeoning Detroit, 9-3, on 3/29/1993.
  • The Islanders improved to 4-3 in shootouts this season with a 3-2 victory at Columbus on Tuesday. New York has won four of its last five shootouts after losing its previous seven dating back to February 21, 2015.
  • Drew Doughty has skated at least 26 shifts in all 134 games he's played since the beginning of 2014-15. No other players boasts an active streak longer than 55 such games (Rasmus Ristolainen). Doughty leads the league in 2015-16 with 33.7 shifts per game (minimum 30 games).
  • Jeff Carter has produced his highest career totals against the Islanders in goals (19), assists (25) and points (44). His +25 career rating versus New York is the highest among active skaters. In fact, he hasn't produced a negative rating against the Islanders since 4/11/2009 (-1).
  • Matt Martin has delivered at least one hit in 65 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the league. He's also generated at least four hits on 40 occasions in 2015-16, the most in the NHL.

 (Russell LaBounty)
(Russell LaBounty)

The Los Angeles Kings kicked off a seven-game trip by scoring more goals in a road game than they had in nearly 23 years.

They might like their chances of winning again if they get to face the New York Islanders' Jaroslav Halak.

Halak has dropped eight straight starts against Los Angeles and is likely to get the nod Thursday night when his Islanders try to slow down the red-hot Kings' power play.

Los Angeles (31-17-3) had nine players score in Tuesday's 9-2 rout of Boston, posting its highest goal total on the road since a 9-3 win over Detroit on March 29, 1993. >> Read more

Tags: Jaroslav Halak

Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo (70) makes a save against New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) during the third period at Nationwide Arena. New York beat Columbus 3-2 in a shootout. (Russell LaBounty)
Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo (70) makes a save against New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) during the third period at Nationwide Arena. New York beat Columbus 3-2 in a shootout. (Russell LaBounty)

The Isles needed a savior after their sluggish first period in Columbus, and Anders Lee was happy to play the part with his game-tying goal in the third.

With the Isles on the power play, Frans Nielsen made a strong play on the puck to keep possession in the zone. He found Kyle Okposo, who sent a crisp cross ice feed down low to Lee. Lee deked to his backhand and slipped the puck in between Cam Atkinson's pads to tie the game at two.

Lee's goal was one of 15 Islanders' shots in the third, compared to Columbus' five. For the game, New York outshot the Jackets 46-31.

"The last 10 games or so, we've really been focusing on the getting pucks to the net and outworking their penalty kill," Lee said.

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Things are really clicking for Lee now, as he just keeps using his big frame to get good position down low to give himself an opportunity to score. I really liked what Anders did on this goal, because he started out in front trying to shield Atkinson. But instead of just staying parked there, he recognized Nielsen's puck handling had created some space, so he eased back toward the corner and got himself open. When Okposo found him with the pass, he had room to come in and make a move, which he cashed in with precision.

That's the best thing about Lee's game. He's this big, ex-football player on skates, but he has the hands of a scorer. It really makes for a lethal combination. In spite of the fact that this was only his eighth goal of the season, it's been a strong year for Lee, and now that he's finding himself on the scoresheet, the Isles could be ready to take off.

Tags: Anders Lee , Kyle Okposo , Brian Erni , Tim Reilly

New York Islanders left wing Josh Bailey (12) celebrates his goal as center Anders Lee (27) celebrates his assist during the second period against the Edmonton Oilers at Barclays Center. (Anthony Gruppuso)
New York Islanders left wing Josh Bailey (12) celebrates his goal as center Anders Lee (27) celebrates his assist during the second period against the Edmonton Oilers at Barclays Center. (Anthony Gruppuso)

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Locker room chemistry. It's this mystical element in sports that no one can pinpoint. In retrospect, it's obvious, as cases in Islanders lore abound. The 1993 team that made an unexpected run to the Prince of Wales Finals had it. The dynasty teams had so much they could sent some extra mojo around the league and still gone on their run. But how easy is it to spot in the midst of a season? And does this Islanders team have that elusive 'it'? 
 
One this is for certain. They're spending a lot of time talking about it.
 
"We've got a lot of good leaders in here, so there's calm, there's no panic," Ryan Strome told reporters after the Islanders 3-2 shootout win in Columbus. "We know how tight it is in the standings. We've been playing a lot of good hockey lately and we couldn't let this one slip away."
 
That may seem like a simple case of Strome speaking about a come-from-behind win on the road. But on Sunday, when Brian Strait took on the Oilers' Zack Kassian, who originally had tried to take on Thomas Hickey, Matt Martin showered Strait with praise, citing his contributions to locker room.
 
"Straiter's a hell of a guy in this room and he stepped up for Hicks there," Martin said. "That shows you something."
 
Even when Johnny Boychuk returned to the lineup, it wasn't solely his blue line presence Jack Capuano was eager to have back. He specifically called out Boychuk's leadership to bolster the room.
 
"For me, it's more of his leadership and what he can bring to the room," Capuano said. "He's been there before, started in the minors, worked his way up, he's won a Stanley Cup, he knows the grind that it takes. And he knows the accountability factor. Hey, it doesn't matter if you hurt somebody's feelings. And you need a guy like that."
 
These quotes are all in the last five days. It's almost as if the Isles are screaming upwards to Garth Snow, imploring him not to shake up this roster. Trying to convince him that the faith he showed in this young core this offseason will be rewarded. 
 
As fans, we're hard on players for what they bring on the ice, because that's all we see. We form notions about a guy with our eyes or our analytics, often eager to discard someone into the worthless pile. Strait is a good example of that. We're hard on him and, at times, that's justified. But does he bring more? Martin's comments give me pause. This is a game played by human beings after all. How many times have we heard about Eric Boulton's role as the man in charge of boosting morale? Just like working in an office, a better environment certainly leads to happier players. Are contributions from guys like Strait and Boulton worth just as much a timely carry-in or shot on net? And does a room ever become too comfortable, with the grind of an NHL season likened to an extended stay at hockey camp?
 
Answering these questions have to be one of the most difficult elements of a general manager's job. For the Islanders rebuild is over, and was overall a success. But during the course of what's been an extremely uneven season, the most vexing question is how do they take the next step? Is it just by letting their young players grow? Or is it with a move for that one, perfect piece that brings it all together? It seems like the Islanders know what they want, and only time will tell if they're justified in asking for it or not. It just all may come down to what Garth's gut is telling him.

 

Tags: Brian Strait , Johnny Boychuk , Matt Martin , Ryan Strome , Thomas Hickey , Brian Erni

 (Russell LaBounty)
(Russell LaBounty)

Cal Clutterbuck scored the winning goal in the shootout, lifting the New York Islanders to a 3-2 comeback victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.

Frans Nielsen also scored in the shootout and Jaroslav Halak stopped three of four attempts by Columbus. Anders Lee had the tying goal early in the third period.

Ryan Strome had a goal in regulation for the Islanders, who earned their second win in a row and avoided their first three-game road losing streak in two seasons. New York completed a four-game season series sweep of the Blue Jackets. >> Read more

Tags: Anders Lee , Cal Clutterbuck , Frans Nielsen , Jaroslav Halak , Ryan Strome

 (Leon Halip)
(Leon Halip)

The Islanders face the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m.

According to STATS...

  • The Blue Jackets have won back-to-back games despite trailing after the first period in each. It is the first time Columbus has won consecutive games in which they trailed after the first period since January 19-22, 2011.
  • The Islanders have scored at least three goals in each of the last seven meetings with the Blue Jackets, their longest active streak against an opponent as well as the longest active streak against Columbus.
  • William Karlsson scored both goals in the Blue Jackets' 2-1 win in Calgary on Friday. Karlsson, who has all of nine career goals, has as many multi-goal games (3) as he does single-goal games (3).
  • Kyle Okposo recorded his second career hat trick and matched his career-high with four points in Sunday's win over Edmonton. Okposo is the first US-born Islander with multiple hat tricks since Jason Blake.
  • Joonas Korpisalo has saved at least 30 shots in three straight games. He is the first Blue Jackets rookie goaltender to stop 30 or more shots in three consecutive games since Steve Mason in March 2009.
  • John Tavares has won 10+ faceoffs in each of the last five games. It is tied for the fourth-longest streak of his career, and his longest since a seven-game run from February 19 -- March 3, 2015.
Tags: John Tavares , Kyle Okposo

New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) celebrates after scoring in the third period with teammate center Anders Lee (27) during the game against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. (Leon Halip)
New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) celebrates after scoring in the third period with teammate center Anders Lee (27) during the game against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. (Leon Halip)

The New York Islanders are brimming with confidence after finishing with their highest goal total in five seasons.

They haven't had too much trouble racking up goals against the Columbus Blue Jackets, although they've never faced Joonas Korpisalo.

The visiting Islanders look to complete a four-game sweep of the Blue Jackets and make it eight straight meetings without a regulation defeat in the series Tuesday night.

New York (27-18-6) cruised to an 8-1 victory over Edmonton on Sunday. Kyle Okposo recorded his second career hat trick, Nick Leddy had a career-high three assists and John Tavares added a goal and two assists in the Islanders' highest-scoring effort since a 9-3 win over Pittsburgh on Feb. 11, 2011.

"It was good. Good to put up eight. It was a pretty good team effort," Okposo said. "I thought we were going on all cylinders. It's definitely nice to get rewarded."

Okposo has 10 points in his last eight games and Tavares has nine in six.

New York, which had totaled three goals in losing its previous two games, looks to avoid its first three-game road slide in two seasons.

The Islanders are enjoying a 5-0-2 run over the Blue Jackets in which they've totaled 30 goals, with nine in three victories this season. Brock Nelson has scored three of his team-high 20 goals in the 2015-16 season series. >> Read more…

Andy Graziano, SNY.TV: The game against Edmonton certainly helped but some key Islanders have been streaking for a good stretch now and look to continue that in Columbus tonight.

Captain John Tavares is 5-4-9 in his last six games, Kyle Okposo, playing in his 500th NHL game tonight, is 3-3-6 in his last four, Brock Nelson ,who recorded a hat trick in his last game against the Blue Jackets, 6-2-8 over his last nine, Mikhail Grabovski is 3-1-4 in his last four contests and defenseman Nick Leddy has five assists in his last four games.

With head coach Jack Capuano announcing Jaroslav Halak will be back in net after his disastrous start in Detroit on Saturday, it will be key for New York's de-facto number one to get off to a good start. Halak has to be more consistent for the Islanders than he was in 2014-15, where he missed time twice with an upper body injury. A red hot October (1.78, .932) has been followed up by November (2.18, .914), December (2.22, .925) and January (2.31, .924).

The Islanders have struggled all season to put offense and defense together in one cohesive sixty minute game. They did so during in Sunday's 8-1 rout and much more of that complete effort is going to be required during this stretch of nine games in 20 days to close out February, culminating with the trade deadline at 3pm ET on the 29th.

Tags: Andy Graziano

On this week's Islanders Point Blank Podcast, Brian Compton and Mike Carver look back at another inconsistent week, and ahead to a possible deadline deal for Andrew Ladd.

Plus, the guys go around the league with Josh Cooper of Yahoo, focusing on the Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks.

Tags: Brian Compton

 (Charles LeClaire)
(Charles LeClaire)

Kyle Okposo's Islanders career began in controversy and could end with him leaving for greener pastures this summer as an unrestricted free agent. But in between, it's been a heck of a ride for the former first round selection (7th overall) in 2006 as he prepares to play in his 500th NHL game Tuesday night in Columbus against the Blue Jackets.

In June of 2007, Okposo reconfirmed his commitment to the University of Minnesota to continue his development for the '07-'08 season under the guidance of head coach Don Lucia. But in December, he notified his teammates that he would indeed be leaving the program to begin his NHL journey. At that time, general manager Garth Snow told the Minneapolis Tribune that they weren't happy with the program, which was "not holding up their end of the bargain in working to make Okposo a better hockey player."

Lucia, in USA Today, didn't respond kindly to Snow's comments. "We have had numerous players sign and play in the NHL, but just as important many more move on to have successful careers after graduating from the University of Minnesota. We have always and will continue to work to ensure our players reach their potential on the ice and in the classroom."

Okposo would only play 35 games in 2008-09 for the Islanders' American Hockey League affiliate in Bridgeport, collecting 9-19-28 before being recalled to Long Island on March 18, 2008. It's where he has called home ever since, marrying his wife Danielle in 2012 and welcoming their first child in 2014, all while never wearing another jersey on his back.

Statistically, Okposo has been steadily improving his game since his debut against the Maple Leafs eight years ago. But it hasn't come without its trials and tribulations. Since his first full season in 2008-09, Okposo has played in 83 percent of all eligible contests, missing 101 games with various ailments -- the most serious being shoulder surgery that cost him 44 games in 2011 and a detached retina that caused him to miss 22 games in 2015.

When on the ice, he has proven to be more consistent than some like to give him credit for. Since hovering around the .50 to .65 point per game mark in his first five seasons, Okposo has raised that to .97, .85 and .84 (this year to date) over his last three. Sunday's hat trick against the Oilers gave him 15 goals on the season, tied with Frans Nielsen for third on the team behind Brock Nelson (20) and John Tavares (19). And his 41 points leads the team in scoring. For his career, Okposo has 346 points in 499 games (.69 PPG) and a respectable 50.7 Corsi for percentage.

He's also been productive in the playoffs, albeit in limited games. 5-2-7 in 13 playoff appearances shows that the 6'0, 200 lb winger doesn't shy away when the lights are at their brightest.

But what does all this potentially cost? I don't see any logical way that Snow deals his high-scoring, productive winger with the team still in the midst of a playoff race, regardless of his upcoming contract situation. It would have to be one heck of an offer and many other GMs around the league are not going to want to part with significant assets for what might turn out to be a rental. And there is an argument to be made that the Islanders would not go very far without Okposo and only draft picks in his place.

Currently in the last year of his five-year deal worth $14 million, Okposo rightfully is going to look to do the best thing for his family. Where is the best situation for him to settle in and maximize his earning potential? Turning 28 years old in April, if you factor in a seven-year deal for the winger that takes him to age 35, that would make this potentially his only shot at a big payday and future financial security.

Looking at it from the Islanders perspective, Snow has to do the right thing for the future salary cap structure of the organization. That means looking ahead to whom he has to sign over the coming years, where the actual cap numbers could land (especially in these times of the devaluation of the CAD dollar) and whether Okposo is worth 7 million annually compared to players with similar skill sets.

Just because the league salary structure says Okposo might be worth a certain dollar figure doesn't mean that Snow has to think so. When all is said and done this summer, should Okposo choose to leave, there will almost certainly be fingers pointed in one direction. But maybe there shouldn't be.

For now, let's celebrate a tremendous milestone for a career New York Islander who has left his heart and soul on the ice each and every shift and let the experts deal with the finances later.

Tags: Kyle Okposo , Andy Graziano

The Islanders celebrate a second-period goal by Josh Bailey (12). (Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)
The Islanders celebrate a second-period goal by Josh Bailey (12). (Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

Box score

NEW YORK -- Kyle Okposo scored a hat trick after the Islanders opened a commanding early lead with three first-period goals as New York routed the last-place Edmonton Oilers 8-1 on Sunday.

Thomas Greiss made 30 saves for the Islanders (27-18-6), who moved within three points of the Rangers for second-place in the Metropolitan Division.

Johnny Boychuck, John Tavares and Nikolay Kulemin scored in the opening period, chasing former Islanders netminder Anders Nilsson, who was replaced after Kulemin's goal by former Ranger Cam Talbot.

Boychuk, in his first game back after missing 11 games with an upper body injury suffered on Dec. 31 at Buffalo, ripped a slapshot past Nilsson at 2:57 for his fourth goal of the season.

Tavares made it 2-0 at 9:12 with his 19th goal before Kulemin added his sixth at 11:24. Oilers coach Todd McLellan then pulled Nilsson, replacing him with Talbot. Nilsson stopped only seven of the 10 shots he faced.

Okposo made it 4-0 at 2:32 of the second, then scored again at 6:09 of the middle period.

Read more. . . .


John Tavares, right, and Anders Lee will try to help the Islanders bounce back Sunday against the Oilers at the Barclays Center. (Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports)
John Tavares, right, and Anders Lee will try to help the Islanders bounce back Sunday against the Oilers at the Barclays Center. (Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports)

Although John Tavares can sympathize with the pressure and expectations foisted on phenom Connor McDavid, their teams are in far different positions.

Tavares is trying to help the New York Islanders get back into the playoff picture Sunday afternoon against the highly touted rookie and the last-place Edmonton Oilers at the Barclays Center

Expectations were high when Tavares was selected first overall at age 18 in 2009. He played all 82 games that season and led New York with 54 points, showing the promise fans have hoped would turn the struggling franchise into a Stanley Cup champion.

Tavares has turned the Islanders into a playoff contender, and that burden of expectations has him relating to McDavid, last year's top pick who turned 19 last month and is expected to turn around the moribund Oilers as the NHL's next transcendent star.

"Some of it is a little overwhelming," Tavares told the team's website. "You're going through it for the first time and you're barely an adult. You're trying to mature and make sure you're handling yourself the right way. I had great people around me that really helped me through that."

Tavares, the team's captain, has done his part to live up to those expectations. He's tied with Kyle Okposo for the team lead with 37 points and has eight in eight games after scoring a goal on an assist by Okposo in Saturday's 5-1 loss at Detroit.

The Islanders (26-18-6) are one point back of New Jersey for the second wild-card position in the Eastern Conference. Read more. . . .


A 25-minute delay caused by a malfunctioning Zamboni was another indignity the Islanders had to endure during their 5-1 loss to Detroit Saturday. (Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports)
A 25-minute delay caused by a malfunctioning Zamboni was another indignity the Islanders had to endure during their 5-1 loss to Detroit Saturday. (Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports)

The Islanders are feeling the heat of a tight Eastern Conference playoff chase after their 5-1 loss in Detroit on Saturday.

New York dropped to ninth in the East, as Jaroslav Halak allowed four goals on 13 shots before being lifted in favor of J.F. Berube in the third period. It was the Red Wings' first home win since December 20.

"I can't remember when the standings have been this tight this late in the year," Travis Hamonic told reporters after the game. "Every game is important and you can't dwell on these."

"This time of year, you take it day by day," Cal Clutterbuck added. "That's the only way to approach it. The most important two points are the ones available tomorrow. You take a lesson here and move on."


Brian Erni, IslandersPointBlank.com

I'm glad that the Islanders are looking forward, because if they peered back on Saturday's loss, they'd see an absolute mess. Halak played one of his worst games in an Islanders uniform, as he found himself out of position and beaten up high with ease. The power play showed absolutely no jump, failing to convert on their first four chances when the game was actually on the line.

Even Johnny Boychuk's return to the ice wasn't without a hiccup, as he took a tripping penalty to give the Wings a 5-on-3 advantage in the second period that Detroit would cash in to put the game out of reach.

After something like that, there's really nothing to say. Everything looked so bad that, as a fan, it's hard to imagine where to go from here. But these players have to have short memories. It's a blessing that the Isles get to take the ice on Sunday afternoon and try to wipe the slate clean. After Saturday, they desperately need a good effort, and need two points even worse.


Detroit Red Wings right wing Tomas Jurco celebrates after scoring a gold during the first period of the game against the New York Islanders at Joe Louis Arena. (Leon Halip/USATSI)
Detroit Red Wings right wing Tomas Jurco celebrates after scoring a gold during the first period of the game against the New York Islanders at Joe Louis Arena. (Leon Halip/USATSI)

Dylan Larkin and Tomas Tatar each had a goal and an assist, and the Detroit Red Wings routed the New York Islanders 5-1 for their first home win of 2016, a game delayed 36 minutes by a malfunctioning Zamboni that chopped up a section of the ice.

The Red Wings, who were 0-4-1 at home since Dec. 20, also got goals from Tomas Jurco, Mike Green and Kyle Quincey. Petr Mrazek made 28 saves to improve to 8-2-1 in his last 11 starts.

John Tavares had New York's only goal. Jaroslav Halak was pulled after allowing four goals on 13 shots.

The start of the third period was delayed after a Zamboni ripped up a line of ice stretching from in front of the Red Wings net past the blue line. As a result, the teams changed ends at the midway point of the third so that neither team would get an advantage from the bad ice. >> Read more...

Tags: Detroit Red Wings , Jaroslav Halak , John Tavares , Johnny Boychuk

New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock high fives the bench after scoring during the first period against the New Jersey Devils at Barclays Center. (Anthony Gruppuso/USATSI)
New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock high fives the bench after scoring during the first period against the New Jersey Devils at Barclays Center. (Anthony Gruppuso/USATSI)

Michael Fornabaio is the Bridgeport Sound Tigers beat reporter for the Connecticut Post and has been covering the New York Islanders AHL affiliate expertly.

There have been some questions relating to the Tigers all season from Islanders fans mostly revolving around why Ryan Pulock has still not gotten his cup of coffee in the NHL, being overlooked for the opportunity by first Adam Pelech then Scott Mayfield

But there is more to these baby Islanders than just a blue chip defenseman with a powerful slapshot. There are some good hockey players looking for their chance while others enjoy playing the game they love so much knowing that chance for them, will likely never come. 

I had the opportunity to ask Fornabio some questions relating to the Sound Tigers with only one (and a half) being centered around No. 6. Let's see what he had to say.

1. Who has been the most impressive Islanders youngster in Bridgeport this season?

Pelech for good or ill. His progression over a year from 6/7 guy to shutdown guy (and, had he stayed here, a guy who looked as if he might be getting another crack on the power play) was pretty neat to watch. 

To tack on another, Alan Quine's all-around game has come along greatly over his three seasons. I think he's in the mix if a call-up is needed. That probably would've surprised me two years ago. 

2. With Pelech and now Scott Mayfield being recalled before Pulock, what is your sense as to the possible reasoning why?

Their defensive games were more mature than Pulock's. They were Bridgeport's top penalty-kill pair, the matchup pair. Pulock was, for instance, the fourth or fifth PK guy.

That said, Pulock has kind of seized the moment with those two guys up and has taken advantage of more ice time and more-important ice time. 

3. What has been the most impressive part of Pulock's game and, subsequently, the most disappointing thus far?

I don't know that there's a really disappointing aspect. He's developing. Over the past month or so he has tried to be more assertive, and it shows, whether moving the puck, carrying it himself, taking it to the net. 

4. Brent Thompson had this team flying out of the gate and they have now dropped to 5th in the division. What led to the slump and do you see this team as currently being constructed being able to make some noise in the playoffs, should they make it?

Early in the year, Josh Weissbock's estimated FC and PDO had Bridgeport in maybe not quite early-season New York Rangers territory with a quadrant to themselves, but something like it. Considering their shooting percentage since, you could say that they are, now, more or less what their record says they are. This remains an inexperienced defense overall, too. Inconsistency happens. 

Could they make noise? Hey, anything can happen in a best-of-five series, and then you go from there, but their most likely opponents for that are a good if decimated right now Wilkes-Barre team, a really good Hershey team or a phenomenal Toronto team. Not easy. That said, Bridgeport hasn't been in the playoffs since 2012, hasn't won a game since 2010, hasn't played in May since 2003. An opportunity would be different. 

5. What was your sense of Kirill Petrov when he was here, prior to his returning to the KHL.

I was kind of waiting to see him take over. You saw flashes. It's an adaptation, obviously; different culture, different everything. But then he was hurt, came back for that one game on his way out the door, and then was gone. Too bad, really, as long as we all waited for it to happen. 

6. Stephon Williams might be more talked about, but Christopher Gibson has taken the starting job and performed very well. With the JF Berube situation on the big club, it seems like the team now has a glut of qualified goaltending prospects. Which one makes the cut in your opinion and why?

Anybody who's ever asked me about goaltending can probably tell you it's not worth it.

Stockpiling is not a bad idea -- see which one emerges. Williams has shown potential, if inconsistency as a rookie. Gibson has been very solid here and has a couple of years' experience. Berube has been the man for a really good AHL team that won a Calder Cup. Reasonable odds on any of them, with no clear cut favorite right now.

If that did not satisfy your thirst for Pulock news, you can read Fornabio's full story with quotes from Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson here.

Tags: Andy Graziano

New York Islanders center John Tavares plays the puck against Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba during the second period at Barclays Center. (Brad Penner/USATSI)
New York Islanders center John Tavares plays the puck against Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba during the second period at Barclays Center. (Brad Penner/USATSI)

The New York Islanders face the Detroit Red Wings on the road Saturday at 2 p.m.

According to STATS:

  • The Islanders have won five of their last six road games against the Red Wings, after winning just three of their previous 17 games in Detroit.
  • The Islanders have not allowed a power-play goal in 11 of their last 13 road games. Their 91.4 penalty-kill percentage on the road since November 27 is the fourth-lowest in the NHL entering the weekend.
  • The Red Wings have not been shutout once over their last 74 games -- the longest active streak in the NHL.
  • The Red Wings, who have allowed multiple power-play goals in back-to-back games for the second time this season (also December 31 -- January 2), have not allowed multiple power-play goals in three straight games since March 28 -- April 2, 2011.
  • Dylan Larkin, who scored a pair of goals in Florida against the Panthers Thursday night, has now scored the most goals by a Red Wings rookie since Henrik Zetterberg had 22 during the 2002-03 season.
  • John Tavares has recorded six points over his last six overall road games, and has dished out 10 assists over his last nine games against the Red Wings.
Tags: Detroit Red Wings , John Tavares

New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey shoots the puck against the Washington Capitals in the second period at Verizon Center. (Geoff Burke/USATSI)
New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey shoots the puck against the Washington Capitals in the second period at Verizon Center. (Geoff Burke/USATSI)

The Detroit Red Wings' most recent win came against the New York Islanders in their final game before the All-Star break. Back-to-back road losses followed, but the start of a five-game homestand might not provide much relief.

Detroit has dropped five in a row at Joe Louis Arena and looks to avoid its longest skid there in two seasons in Saturday's rematch with the Islanders.

Justin Abdelkader and Danny DeKeyser scored in a 1:11 span of the second period to lead the Red Wings to a 4-2 victory over New York on Jan. 25. Detroit (25-18-8) was then outscored 9-4 in back-to-back games in Florida.

They allowed their most goals this season in a 6-3 defeat to the Panthers on Thursday. Jimmy Howard gave up five - three in the first 11:06 - to give him an 0-4-3 record and 3.93 goals-against average in his last eight starts.

Detroit has allowed four goals on seven power plays in its two defeats after killing off 25 of 28 penalties in its previous 10 games.

"We've just got to keep grinding," coach Jeff Blashill said. "We've got a big game against the Islanders on Saturday. ... We've been in these playoff-type games the whole year. It's going to continue to be like this for the last 30 games. We have to buckle in and be ready to grind it out every day."

Petr Mrazek was in goal for a 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday and is expected to return to the net Saturday. He stopped 27 shots Jan. 25.

New York (26-17-6) has split its two games since the All-Star break, topping Minnesota 5-3 on Tuesday and losing 3-2 at Washington on Thursday.

The Islanders allowed Alex Ovechkin's go-ahead goal with 2:40 remaining in their third loss in four road games, but defenseman Thomas Hickey was pleased with his team's showing. >> Read more...

Tags: Detroit Red Wings , Thomas Hickey

New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk (55) against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. (Timothy T. Ludwig)
New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk (55) against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. (Timothy T. Ludwig)

Johnny Boychuk will make his return to the Islanders' lineup on Saturday afternoon when New York visits the Red Wings.
 
Boychuk has missed the team's last 11 games sustaining an upper body injury on December 31.
 
"We never want to rush guys back, obviously, and the few extra days were important," Jack Capuano said of Boychuk on Friday, who originally was said to be close to returning on Thursday. "Our defense has been playing pretty well, too."

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Boychuk's original timetable was four-to-six weeks, and his return on Saturday would be just over five weeks since he got hurt in Buffalo. That's right on schedule, and the Islanders' light January certainly helped the team limit the impact of losing Boychuk for over a month. The team went 5-5-1 without one of their top d-men, but his return couldn't come at a better time.
 
We saw on Thursday just how badly the Isles miss Boychuk, a player who can step up in those final minutes. Don't get me wrong, the defense has done a solid job in holding down the fort, but with the Islanders back at full strength on the blue line, it should help them tighten up some of the slip ups. New York will play five games in a span of seven days this week, and having Boychuk back for it feels like a godsend. 

Tags: Johnny Boychuk , Brian Erni

New York Islanders left wing Josh Bailey (12) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals in the third period at Verizon Center. The Capitals won 3-2. (Geoff Burke)
New York Islanders left wing Josh Bailey (12) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals in the third period at Verizon Center. The Capitals won 3-2. (Geoff Burke)

The Islanders came away without a point in Washington, but the effort was there.

"One of the best games we've played in this building and still come away with no points," coach Jack Capuano said. "Hard-fought game, it's tough to come away with nothing."

The Islanders fought back from a 2-1 deficit to get even in the third period on Josh Bailey's eighth goal of the season. But Alex Ovechkin buried a Nicklas Backstrom feed with just 2:40 to go in regulation to give Washington a 3-2 victory.

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Don't get me wrong, the Isles need every win they can get. The Metropolitan division is so tightly packed that any time there is a chance to get points in the final minutes of a game on the road, you need to get them. That said, this game had to help New York's confidence.

The Islanders held the Caps to 26 shots. They kept Washington's vaunted power play off the board. They even held Ovechkin in check until he was afforded way too much space to shoot on his game-winner. I liked what they did on offense, carrying in the puck and gaining the zone with relative ease most of the night. It's just one of those nights where the end result doesn't tell the full story. The Islanders, however, are in a results-oriented business, and good efforts aren't going to keep the Devils and Penguins from picking up points in the race for one of the Metropolitan playoff slots. Thursday gave the Isles something to build off of, but they need to finish against the good teams in this league when they get the chance.

Tags: Josh Bailey , Brian Erni

Islanders defenseman Brian Strait is chased by Washington's center Nicklas Backstrom (19). (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
Islanders defenseman Brian Strait is chased by Washington's center Nicklas Backstrom (19). (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Box score

WASHINGTON --Alex Ovechkin scored the winning goal in his return from a one-game suspension for skipping the All-Star Game, and the Washington Capitals avoided a third straight loss by beating the New York Islanders 3-2 on Thursday night.

Ovechkin scored off a pass from Nicklas Backstrom with 2:40 left to help Washington end a rare two-game skid. The Capitals hadn't lost three games in a row all season.

T.J. Oshie and Andre Burakovsky also scored for the Capitals. Braden Holtby stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced for the victory in his return to the net.

The Islanders' Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves. Mikhail Grabovski and Josh Bailey had New York's goals in a rematch of a first-round playoff series from last spring.

Read more. . . .


 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

Missing their two most important players, the Washington Capitals hardly resembled the team that dominated the season's first half in their return from the All-Star break.

With Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby back in the fold, the Eastern Conference leaders attempt to avert a season-high third straight loss Thursday night against the visiting New York Islanders.

Ovechkin was ineligible to play Tuesday against Florida after dropping out of the All-Star game to rest a lower-body injury, while Holtby was given the night off after participating in this past weekend's festivities in Nashville. Both were missed as the Capitals fell behind early in a 5-2 defeat to the Atlantic Division-leading Panthers that gave them only their second losing streak this season. >> Read more


 (Anthony Gruppuso)
(Anthony Gruppuso)

Jerry F. writes

Brian, I agree that building the Islanders to win now should be the name of the game. However, Garth Snow has done absolutely nothing either now OR last off-season to indicate that. He got a very good backup goalie in Griess, but what else did he do? The Tavares line is lacking a sniper besides JT. He added Zidlicky on defense. What else?? I can only guess that his thinking was a year's more experience and being in the playoffs would suffice. Well…it doesn't! They are inconsistent game to game, and the coach is not to blame. Additionally, I don't understand why they have so much of this talent sitting in the minors and are never willing to bring them up?? Would you rather be seeing Zidlicky or Pulock??

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Jerry, I get where you're coming from. Last offseason, Snow certainly staked a great deal on the continued development of his young players. But honestly, I think that was probably the best course of action. Ryan Strome has the potential to be that sniper, Anders Lee just needs a few more bounces to get the score sheet to be a fair representation of his level of play, and Brock Nelson has developed very nicely. Why try to add something you may already have in-house?

You also have to remember that the modern NHL is constantly about working around the cap, and the Isles have some key guys that need deals next season. Obviously, Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, and Matt Martin are the pending UFAs. Strome and Casey CIzikas will be RFAs.

As it stands now, the Isles have just over $5 million in cap space. So if the Isles did go out and add a piece on a long-term commitment, they would ultimately end up sacrificing someone. Personally, I feel like the Islanders have come too far along in this rebuild to subtract from it now. Let's see where this goes first before we start casting off pieces.

As far as development of the younger players, I have to give the Islanders the benefit of the doubt here. Their successes have far outnumbered their failures during this rebuild. For every Nino Niederreiter, there are a ton of homegrown guys who are now the established core of a very good hockey team. So if the Isles don't think Pulock is ready, I have to trust that's the case. 

Tags: Brian Erni

 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

Brett Yormark says there are ways to still enjoy the game for fans in obstructed view seats.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated, the Barclays Center CEO talked about the Islanders' transition in Brooklyn and brought up the topic of limited view seating.

"Our seating capacity is over 15,700. Within that capacity there's a lot of great seats," Yormark said. "Do we have some obstructed seats? Yes we do. Are fans aware of those obstructed seats before they purchase them? Yes they are. There's really nothing we're going to do from a capital improvement standpoint. You can watch the game on your mobile device. The game is on the scoreboard. There are many ways to view the game if you're in one of those obstructed seats. We aren't going to be able to change the seats in the building. That is what it is. But there are certainly other ways we can enhance the experience."

Yormark also said that since the first nine games of the season, attendance is up 23 percent, and revenue since the first game is up 10 percent.

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

This is why people lose their minds. It's one thing to have obstructed seats. It's just how things are in Brooklyn, and it's never going to change. But don't tell people to watch the game on their phone. That's such a typical marketing guy thing to say. I don't want to watch the game on my phone! I'll just stay at home, watch the game on a screen larger than five inches, and drink my free beer if that's the case.

I don't expect Barclays Center to be perfect for hockey. I'm past asking the question, "Why try to woo a hockey team while building an arena that isn't dual purpose?" I think most fans just want a good product on the ice, and to not have their intelligence insulted when their complaints are brought up.

If you're going to "enhance the experience" with auxiliary scoreboards or TVs or a free t-shirt for sitting in obstructed seats or whatever, just do it. But an answer can't be that I'm better off watching it on my phone, because that's just so disconnected from reality its laughable.

Tags: Brian Erni

Brian Compton and Mike Carver are steaming over Jack Capuano and Garth Snow's decision to start J.F. Berube in net vs. Minnesota. They discuss how this will impact Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss, and if Berube has trade value come the deadline.

Plus, Brian chats with Craig Custance of ESPN about the trade market, focusing on Kyle Okposo, Thomas Greiss, and Travis Hamonic.

Tags: Jaroslav Halak , Kyle Okposo , Thomas Greiss , Travis Hamonic

 (Jay LaPrete/AP)
(Jay LaPrete/AP)

What will Garth Snow do with Kyle Okposo?

ESPN's Scott Burnside recently broke down the issues facing each team in the Metropolitan division ahead of the NHL's trade deadline and, unsurprisingly, the question on whether to trade Okposo is on top of the Isles' agenda.

"With contract talks regarding Kyle Okposo at a standstill, what is general manager Garth Snow going to do with his leading points producer," Burnside asks. "Can he afford to see Okposo walk on July 1 without getting anything in return? But can he afford to trade a top power forward when the team might face the hated Rangers in the first round? The short answer is that Snow can't afford to have either of those things happen, which means he must find a way to fill Okposo's void if he does move the winger."

The trade deadline is February 29.

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

I think Snow has to hold on to Okposo and roll the dice. There's no way Snow is going to get full value for him as a pending UFA, so what does he really stand to gain? A prospect that could help them three-to-four years down the road? It's always nice to add to your system, but the Islanders' window to win is open right now.

Outside of the Capitals, nearly every team in Eastern Conference is on the same level. If the Islanders can find a way out of the Metropolitan division, would you really be surprised if they wound up in the Cup Final? Bearing that in mind, there's just no way can I convince myself that moving your top scorer is the best way to go. I know that no one wants to see Kyle walk away at the end of the season with nothing to show for it. But with a realistic chance at playing deep into the spring, the Isles can't cut bait on what has a reasonable chance to turn into a special season.

Tags: Kyle Okposo , Brian Erni

New York Islanders center Anders Lee (27) plays the puck in front of Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon (46) during the second period at Barclays Center. (Brad Penner)
New York Islanders center Anders Lee (27) plays the puck in front of Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon (46) during the second period at Barclays Center. (Brad Penner)

Anders Lee finally saw some results for his hard work this season.

Lee deflected home a Travis Hamonic shot from just inside the blue line to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead in the second period. It was Lee's first goal in eight games.

In 48 games, Lee has scored seven goals and 14 assists. Last season, he had 25 goals in 76 games.

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Lee has been an analytics darling this season (54.1 Corsi For Percentage, 54.9 Fenwick For Percentage), he just hasn't found the back of the net with as much consistency as many of us thought he would. To give that some perspective, Lee's 5-on-5 Individual Fenwick (shots on goal plus shots directed at net that missed net) is third-best among forwards on the team (127), but he is averaging only 1.32 points per 60 even strength minutes. John Tavares, for example, who has a 128 iFenwick, has 2.07 points per 60 of 5-on-5. That's a good example to show that Lee has been teasing an offensive break out, he just hasn't cashed in on his opportunities. But that might be about to change.

Lee's deflection was well done, possibly even done purely on instinct, as Butch Goring said on the telecast. But what I liked even more than the deflection was the screen Lee provided on Frans Nielsen's goal. That's Lee's bread-and-butter: get in front of the net and cause a problem. He was a huge factor on two goals, and if he can just get a few more breaks, he might still give a second consecutive 20-goal season a run for its money.

Tags: Anders Lee , John Tavares , Brian Erni

New York Islanders goalie Jean-Francois Berube (30) makes a save against the Minnesota Wild during the first period at Barclays Center. (Brad Penner)
New York Islanders goalie Jean-Francois Berube (30) makes a save against the Minnesota Wild during the first period at Barclays Center. (Brad Penner)

J.F. Berube earned his first NHL win in the Islanders' 5-3 victory over the Wild on Tuesday.

Berube, who was tabbed with surprise on Tuesday afternoon, made 40 saves, including 20 in the first period. He was named the game's third star.

"When we announced [Berube was starting] this morning, a few people looked at me like I head three heads," Capuano told reporters. "But he played real well last week in Bridgeport, he was ready. He's part of the team. We have three goaltenders and it's not going to change. He played great."

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

I had the same reaction as some of the reporters. Why Berube, especially coming off such a long stretch of rest for Halak and Greiss? But as I watched the game unfold on Tuesday, and the more I thought about it, it could be a brilliant move by Capuano.

Halak played in 59 regular season games and seven playoff starts for a career-high of 65 appearances. Greiss has never played in more than 25 NHL games in one season, and he's at 21 right now. So while the goaltending has been one of the Isles' saving graces in this rather uneven season, it doesn't mean they can afford to run them into the ground, especially with the taxing schedule down the stretch. The only teams the Isles don't have a game in hand on in the East is Washington and Philadelphia. As a result, their schedule is packed in the final three months. They'll play 12 games in the remaining 27 days in February, and 16 games in 30 days in March (which includes two back-to-backs).

So if Berube can earn the trust of Capuano, the coach can use J.F. to spell his top two goaltenders, keep them fresh, and have them both ready for the spring. The way Berube played on Tuesday, there's no reason why he can't get four or five more spot starts, and that extra rest for Jaro and Greiss could mean all the difference come playoff time.

 

Tags: Jaroslav Halak , Thomas Greiss , Brian Erni

 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

Brock Nelson's team-leading 20th goal broke a tie late in the second period, Jean-Francois Berube made 40 saves for his first NHL win, and the New York Islanders beat the Minnesota Wild 5-3 Tuesday night.

Mikhail Grabovski and John Tavares each had a goal and an assist, and Anders Lee and Frans Nielsen also scored for the Islanders.

Charlie CoyleJason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter had the goals for the Wild, who have lost eight of their last nine (1-7-1). Devan Dubnyk gave up five goals on 30 shots, and Darcy Kuemper stopped all eight shots he faced.

After the Islanders took a 2-1 lead on goals by Grabovski and Lee early in the second, Pominville tied it with 1:34 left in the period. Nelson put New York back ahead for good with 42 seconds remaining. >> Read more

Tags: Anders Lee , Brock Nelson , Frans Nielsen , John Tavares , Mikhail Grabovski

 (Aaron Doster)
(Aaron Doster)

The Islanders return from the All-Star break to host the Wild on Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m.

According to STATS...

  • This will be the first meeting between the Wild and Islanders this season. Minnesota swept the season series last season, just the third season all-time in which the Wild swept the season series versus the Islanders, and the first since 2008-09 (also 2000-01).
  • The Wild were 22-11-8 (.634) through January 9, the sixth-highest win percentage in the NHL over that span. However, Minnesota is just 1-6-1 (.188) since January 10, the worst win percentage in the NHL. The Wild now find themselves outside of the Western Conference playoff picture, one point behind the eighth-seeded Predators.
  • The Islanders went 21-12-5 in the first three months of the season, outscoring their opponents by 15 (102-87) over that span. However, New York went just 4-4-1 in January and were outscored by three goals in the month (28-25), the first month in which the Islanders have been outscored since being outscored, 34-30, in March of last season.
  • Mikko Koivu failed to score a goal in January, the first month in which Koivu has played at least 10 games without scoring a goal since October of 2011.
  • Charlie Coyle entered the All-Star break having scored a goal in three consecutive games, tied for the longest streak of his career (also March 22-26, 2014). His last goal before the break was his 13th of the season, a new single-season career-high.
  • Brock Nelson scored a goal in his last game played before the All-Star break on January 25 versus Detroit, his sixth goal scored since the first of the year, tied for his second-most goals scored in any month over his career (had seven in January of 2013). Nelson has totaled 19 goals this season, one shy of his single-season career-high (had 20 last season).
Tags: Brock Nelson

New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic (3) is injured in a collision with Ottawa Senators left wing Shane Prince (10) in the first period at the Canadian Tire Centre. (Marc DesRosiers)
New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic (3) is injured in a collision with Ottawa Senators left wing Shane Prince (10) in the first period at the Canadian Tire Centre. (Marc DesRosiers)

The Islanders (25-16-6) find themselves in third place in the Metropolitan division and three points out of second place in the Eastern Conference as they begin play in the second half on Tuesday. 

They entered the break with a 4-2 home loss to Detroit last Monday, and despite going 3-1-1 in their last five, feel uneven efforts are holding them back.

"Hopefully we can find our game in the last 30-some odd games heading into the playoffs," forward Matt Martin said. " ... It's a tight race but we have to play more consistency. The way we've played haven't been consistent enough."

Brock Nelson scored his 19th goal against the Red Wings, giving him six in his last seven games and getting him within one of the career high he established in 82 games last season. >> Read more…

Tags: Brock Nelson , Matt Martin

New York Islanders goalie Jean-Francois Berube (30) reacts after allowing a goal scored by Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane. (Kamil Krzaczynski)
New York Islanders goalie Jean-Francois Berube (30) reacts after allowing a goal scored by Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane. (Kamil Krzaczynski)

New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano announced that Jean-Francois Berube will start in goal on Tuesday against Minnesota, rather than Jaroslav Halak or Thomas Greiss (Islanders, Feb. 2).  

Berube is the hot hand, going 4-0 with a 0.97 GAA and .967 save percentage over the last two weeks with Bridgeport.

He allowed four goals in his only start this season with the Islanders in October against Chicago.

Andy Graziano, SNY.TV: I don't buy the 'keep a good thing going' excuse being used here by the Islanders. Sure, Berube has been lights out since returning from an injury and getting some regular reps in Bridgeport (4-0-0, 0.97, .967%) but it's all about results. 

If Halak and Greiss are both healthy, and there are zero indications to say they aren't, you are going with one or the other. The only logical reasoning behind this, other than the fact it's a good choice of opponent (Minnesota as opposed to Washington or Dallas for example), is that they are showcasing the young goaltender for a trade.

Halak is signed for another two seasons, Greiss for next season. Berube is probably good enough to see, at minimum, backup reps on an NHL squad. It just doesn't appear it's this one. Typically, teams maximize trade value by showcasing talent at the NHL level. With the trade deadline approaching February 29 at 3pm ET, it appears general manager Garth Snow is trying to increase what he could potentially get in return for Berube, either singularly or as part of a larger package.

Tags: Jaroslav Halak , Thomas Greiss , Andy Graziano

New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk (55) goes off the ice with a trainer during the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on Dec. 31. (Timothy T. Ludwig)
New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk (55) goes off the ice with a trainer during the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on Dec. 31. (Timothy T. Ludwig)

New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk could possibly return on Thursday, according to Arthur Staple of Newsday (Feb. 2).

Boychuk, 32, has been out of action for the Isles since suffering a shoulder injury on Dec. 31.

He has scored three goals and has 11 assists this season in 38 games played. 

Tags: Johnny Boychuk , Tim Reilly

 (Ed Mulholland)
(Ed Mulholland)

Even though the NHL All-Star game was held after the Islanders had already played 47 games, the unofficial second half of the season begins Monday when teams are allowed to resume practicing.

Head coach Jack Capuano and his staff will welcome the players back at IceWorks -- some returning from lavish winter skiing vacations, some from rest and relaxation back home and captain John Tavares from the game itself. The Minnesota Wild await Tuesday evening at Barclays Center in what will kick off a frantic 29 games in the next 59 days.

They Isles will also embark on their longest road trip of the season as the month closes and enters March, with a seven-game swing that will take them through western Canada before culminating with a game at Madison Square Garden on March 6.

New York is seventh in the Eastern Conference but have two games in hand on every team ahead of them with the exception of the Washington Capitals. They also have one-to-three games in hand on teams below them all the way to 13th place. They are three points shy of second place in the division (behind the Rangers) but have two games in hand. Winning those games is another story but they are there for the taking.

Glancing at February, the schedule shows two games apiece against the Capitals, Red Wings, Wild and Oilers, with single games against the Devils, Blue Jackets, Flames, Hurricanes and Kings. Now, even in today's NHL where it seems to be 'any given night' in terms of unpredictable outcomes, you would at least look at that and think it doesn't look too daunting.

I have written plenty about the offensive consistency the Islanders still seem to be searching for -- a perfect marriage, if you will, to their newfound commitment to defense. But that all starts with the faith general manager Garth Snow showed in his stable of young talent when he made no moves to change or improve an offense that finished fourth last year in goals scored. And while some may look to that as a fault, who could blame him with the way that youth performed at such high levels in 2014-15?

It starts with Ryan Strome, the gifted 22-year-old who followed up a 7-11-18 in a 37-game cup of coffee with a spectacular 17-33-50 in 81 games while leading the team at +23 last year. The young forward then showed some immaturity, as he had to be spoken to during training camp regarding his work ethic and battle level in early season practices and exihibitions. Being the fifth overall selecton in the 2011 draft and excelling in the AHL are one thing. Bringing it each night against the best competition in the world is another, as Strome soon found out, being sent to the AHL in early November.

Since his return, Strome's willingness to compete has been noticeable, and he is back on a line with captain John Tavares, where he started the season. The points are coming, with 12 in 24 games since his recall, more in line with the 0.61 point per game pace he set last season. But the Isles will need a lot more of this going forward from him and running mate Anders Lee.

Lee is another story of a sophomore slump or simply 'gripping the stick too tight'. After a superb rookie season in 2014-15, where he notched 25 goals and 41 points in 76 games, he came into this year seemingly overflowing with confidence -- 35 goals in your first 100 NHL games and a new contract extension will do that to you.

But Lee has found the going a lot tougher in his second full pro campaign, a season where many players before him have banged their heads against the proverbial wall. Even though he is doing a lot of the little things right, such as battling hard along the boards and going to the front of the net to cause screens and overall chaos in a zone unfamiliar to many Islanders forwards, the team certainly needs more than six goals in 47 games from him.

For Lee, one indicator that points to bad luck is that he is shooting almost at an identical rate to his breakthrough rookie season -- 2.48 shots per game after averaging 2.59 shots last season. But after 12.7 percent of those shots found the back of the net in 14-15, only 5.1 percent has yielded the same result this season. League average is about 9 percent.

With Johnny Boychuk very close to returning after suffering a separated shoulder and Travis Hamonic now healthy after fracturing a bone in his foot, New York needs to bring their game to another level with very little time in between for rest. The rest period is now over.

To a man, the players and head coach have admitted at one point or another that the team plays their best when their schedule is daunting.

We shall see if that holds true as a frenetic finish awaits. But in order to take the next step to potentially winning a playoff round, the Islanders need their young talent to rediscover their mojo and start partying like its 2015.

Tags: Anders Lee , John Tavares , Johnny Boychuk , Ryan Strome , Travis Hamonic , Andy Graziano

 (Eric Bolte)
(Eric Bolte)

The Islanders have recalled D Scott Mayfield and G JF Berube from Bridgeport, according to Artur Staple of Newsday (Feb. 1)

Mayfield, 23, played in two games for the Isles earlier this season, failing to register a goal or assist. 

Berube, 24, has started one game for the Isles this season, allowing four goals in a loss to the Blackhawks on Oct. 10.

 


The Islanders' John Tavares (91) won the accuracy shooting event in the NHL All-Star weekend's skills competition. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)
The Islanders' John Tavares (91) won the accuracy shooting event in the NHL All-Star weekend's skills competition. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Islanders captain John Tavares won the accuracy shooting event in the NHL All-Star Weekend skills challenge Saturday night in Nashville. He knocked down four of five targets in 12.29 seconds.

East: Patrice Bergeron: 23.36 seconds; Claude Giroux: 17.25 seconds; Evgeni Malkin: 16.179 seconds

West: Patrick Kane: 20 seconds; Joe Pavelski: 14.08 seconds; Corey Perry: 13.77 seconds; Jamie Benn: 16.66 seconds.

Tavares shot after taking passes from Jaromir Jagr and Nicklas Backstrom. Last year in Colorado, it took Tavares 26.122 seconds.

P.K. Subban of the Canadiens won the Breakaway Challenge, wearing Jagr's jersey to honor the 43-year-old All-Star.

Dylan Larkin, 19, of the Red Wings won the Fastest Skater event, going around the rink in 13.172 seconds - breaking the record of 13.386 that Mike Gartner set at the 1996 All-Star Game, before Larkin was born.


Jan 14, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) lines up for a face-off against the New York Rangers during the second period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Jan 14, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) lines up for a face-off against the New York Rangers during the second period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

New York Islanders center John Tavares will participate in Saturday night's NHL All-Star weekend skills competition (Jan. 29).

Tavares will take part in the Accuracy Shooting and Shootout competitions.  

This season Tavares has 18 goals and 16 assists for the Islanders.

Tavares and Jaromir Jagr are the captains of the Eastern Conference team.

Tags: John Tavares , Tim Reilly

The New York Islanders celebrate a goal against the New York Rangers during the third period at Barclays Center. (Brad Penner)
The New York Islanders celebrate a goal against the New York Rangers during the third period at Barclays Center. (Brad Penner)

With the Islanders off through the All-Star break, the Islanders Point Blank team took a look back at the first-half of the season. Next up, the team's biggest need, a trade deadline acquisition question, the 2015-16 season and beyond...

Biggest need

Brian Erni:

Secondary scoring. While some players have better analytics years than their traditional stats would imply (I'm looking at you, Anders Lee), the second and third lines have to up the productivity. The Isles' goals per game currently sits at 2.76. That's down from 3.07 overall last year, and 3.17 through 47 games in 2014-15. If some of the forwards don't start putting the puck in the net, you have to wonder how long the goaltending can keep carrying the load.

Andy Graziano:

Depth defenseman (5/6). It's clear that Marek Zidlicky and Brian Strait are not the answer. Adam Pelech was a revelation before coming down with a mystery illness/injury that has cost him the season and we all saw what a lack of depth that far down the chart did last year in the Islanders loss to the Capitals. Snow would be wise to scour the market and try to patch this up heading into March.

Trade deadline acquisition

Erni:

None. Let's face it: this team is pot-committed to what they have. When healthy, their top-four defensemen are as good as any in the league. And with quality d-men so hard to come by around the league, they're not finding a serious upgrade anywhere. At forward, the team is going to go as far as their young forwards take them. Brock Nelson has stepped up, and now it's time for Ryan Strome and Lee cash in on some of those dangerous shot attempts and start finishing with consistency. Fans seem to feel the team needs that "Butch Goring move": the one swap that puts a young, talented team over the top. I really don't know who the Isles could realistically get to fill that role, nor who they would cut bait with in doing so. I think it's just up to the guys in that room right now to take this as far as they can.

Graziano:

It's always fun to play general manager and when you have followed a team as closely as we have, you draw your own opinions based on who might be available. Snow has a little over 6 million dollars to play with and in addition to shopping for that depth defenseman I mention above, Andrew Ladd could be a nice fit for a draft pick. He would likely come for just the remainder of this season but bring with him a boat load of Stanley Cup experience. You can never have too many winners in the locker room. Bigger question if that was to happen? Who exits the lineup?

Prognosis for balance of 2015-16

Erni:

It's going to be a fight to the finish. After the break, the Isles' schedule is going to really pick up, and they're going to have to separate themselves from the Wild Card teams in the East as they play these games in hand. Before the season, I predicted a second place, 103-point finish. They're on pace for about 97 points right now, and I think they may need to get to the 100 mark to ensure themselves a playoff spot. I think they'll get there, but we're going to sweat down the stretch.

Graziano:

I agree Brian, it doesn't look as if anything is going to get easier for this team and they have really made a lot of things harder on themselves. Sure, there's the adjustment to Barclays and all that entails as well as this new found commitment to the game they were playing in their own end. But 35 games in 67 days? Gonna be a sweaty, nervous sprint to the finish line.

Looking into the future

Erni:

Win a playoff series. The legitimacy of this organization begins and ends with winning a round for the first time since 1992-93. There was a strong case to be made for continuity after last year's giant step forward, Game 7 failure notwithstanding. This season, the measuring stick is very clear. Win a round, or expect some turnover.

Graziano:

You used the perfect word there, Brian: expect turnover. With this team, you can never guarantee it but I would be very surprised if many would survive another first round ouster or at worst, missing the post-season totally. This team is built to win and are most certainly talented enough. Just need to put the intangibles together and blend it all properly.


For Part 1, click here.
For Part 2, click here.

Tags: Anders Lee , Brian Strait , Brock Nelson , Marek Zidlicky , Ryan Strome

New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss (1) during the third period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Barclays Center. (Anthony Gruppuso)
New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss (1) during the third period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Barclays Center. (Anthony Gruppuso)

With the Islanders off through the All-Star break, the Islanders Point Blank team took a look back at the first-half of the season. Next up, what's been good and what's been bad for New York...

What's been good?

Brian Erni:

The goaltending. Thomas Greiss (who nearly got my vote for MVP) has been a revelation, and Jaro Halak has been excellent when he's been on the ice as well. If this team was playing more consistently and capitalizing on their chances, they could easily have 10-15 more points in the standings thanks to how well this goaltending duo has played.

Andy Graziano:

Overall team defense. I wrote yesterday about how the team is struggling to 'marry' their offense with the new found commitment to team defense, which wins championships. Team is allowing less scoring chances overall, keeping slot clear and that penalty kill is fantastic. Eighth in blocked shots is also showing a renewed commitment to their own end. If they can only get the transition game figured out, very dangerous team.

What's been bad?

Erni:

The power play hasn't been great. Its 17.5 percent success rate is in the bottom half of the league (tied for 18th). By contrast, the Devils - who don't score at all - have cashed in 19 percent of their opportunities. I'm sorry, but you're not going to seriously contend for a Stanley Cup without an upper echelon power play. What's more, the Islanders aren't drawing a lot of penalties either. Through 47 games, they've gotten just 137 power play opportunities. That's tied for 26th in the NHL. That leads me to believe that they're not putting enough pressure on their opponents, and their forecheck hasn't been nearly as aggressive as last season, something the eye test corroborates.

Graziano:

Inconsistency in every facet of the offensive game. One game they dominate an opponent, shots are finding their targets and everyone is happy. Next, the complete opposite. Ties to your point I believe, Brian, about the power play as well. Last year, finished second to only the Blackhawks in shots per game (33.8). This season, down to 30. And that's with more of their offensive zone play being on the perimeter also. I'm not sure the defense is at the level, YET, to be able to win 1-0, 2-1 playoff games. Only time will tell. They have to get there first.


For Part 1, click here.

Next up, the team's biggest need and a possibly trade-deadling acuqisition. 

Tags: Jaroslav Halak , Thomas Greiss , Brian Erni

New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (center) celebrates with his team after he scored a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the first period at Honda Center. (Kelvin Kuo)
New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (center) celebrates with his team after he scored a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the first period at Honda Center. (Kelvin Kuo)

With the Islanders off through the All-Star break, the Islanders Point Blank team took a look back at the first-half of the season. First up, MVP, Comeback Player and Best Defender.

MVP

Brian Erni:

Brock Nelson. Where would this offense be without Brock? While his advanced analytics may not be as strong as some of the other wingers, he's leading where it counts: in putting the puck in the net. His 19 goals (14 at even strength) lead the team, and not only is he scoring, he's doing it from beyond the circles with a wicked wrister, something we hadn't seen to date from him. While John Tavares will always be the engine that makes this team go, Nelson has been firing on all cylinders even through JT's cold streaks, and he's really been an offensive answer on a team searching for some.

Andy Graziano:

Really can't go wrong with your selection Brian (although I think the shooting percentage (17.4%) is unsustainable) but I'm taking Frans Nielsen for my money. Corsi jump of over 2.5% from last year (one of only two to show improved analytics) and leads team in scoring chance differential (53.3%). In fact, only 4 Islanders regulars have been on ice for less 5v5 scoring chances against in total. Throw in 14 goals and 30 points and he's my MVP of the first 'half'.

Comeback Player

Erni:

Kyle Okposo. Coming off the detached retina surgery and a fairly lackluster series against the Caps, no one was really sure what to expect of Okposo in his walk year. But Kyle has been quite good, leading the team in points (35), assists (23), and in 5-on-5 Individual Corsi (177). He's also been one of the more productive power play members, with two goals and six assists with an extra attacker. It's clear Okposo's eye isn't a problem, and that has to be a sigh of relief to him and Islanders fans alike.

Graziano:

Calvin de Haan for me. After struggling through his sophomore season, as many before him in this league have, he has rebounded to be the consistent, steady blueliner that Garth Snow thought he could be. Has taken last year's benching in stride and used it as motivation. It's the toughest position to master at this level and the development arc for de Haan is trending in the right directly right on schedule. He is turning into a steady, #3/4 defenseman for this club and will actually be counted on more once Travis Hamonic moves on.

Best Defenseman

Erni:

Travis Hamonic. Not only have Hamonic's peripherals been great, but he's exuding a confidence that I don't think we've seen before. Hamonic has worked through injuries while offsetting some of the uneven play on the blue line, all while going through something deeply personal. I think he's playing the best hockey of his career right now, and it gives the Islanders some incredible depth to match up in the playoffs should everyone remain healthy.

Graziano:

You know what? That's impossible to argue there Brian. Hamonic for me also. With all the negativity surrounding him after his trade request was inexplicably made public, he has handled everything, on and off the ice, with class and professionalism. Has never made a demand that Snow move him within any time frame and has never taken a night off in an Islanders uniform. Once the inevitable happens, will be sad to see him go.


Up next: What's Been Good?, What's Been Bad?, their biggest need, best trade deadling acquisition to make and looking to the second half. 

Tags: Brock Nelson , Calvin De Haan , Kyle Okposo , Travis Hamonic , Brian Erni
Login with Facebook Login with Twitter Login with SNY.tv