Editor's Note: Back by popular demand, from the depths of a brain and muse scientists will one day want to examine but will likely find elusive like some such Heisenberg Principle, here is JPinVA's monthly plus/minus for January.
The good news: January was a playoff pace month. The bad news: January was the only one of those thus far. The fun news: Home attendance average is up -- and this thing hasn't even become trendy in Brooklyn yet.
Notes and figures follow. Poll is at the bottom.
+ (RECORD) 13-7-5-1-15/1.15PPG
DEC(14-6-6-2-14/1.00), NOV(13-4-7-2-10/.77),OCT(9-3-4-2-8/.89), TOT(49-20-22-7-47/.96PPG)
If you use a 90PT season as the benchmark for a "playoff team" then you need about 1.10PG. That makes this a playoff level month. But it’s the first one this season and they will need 43 points in 33 games or a 1.30PPG pace. Their best over the past two years has been a 1.21 pace last February. To keep pace they’ll need ~18 points in the 14 February games.
+ (Goals For) 35/2.69
DEC(39/2.79), NOV(25/1.92),OCT(18/2.00), TOT(117/2.39)
This scoring pace continues to improve the season average. They need some secondary scoring, which will probably come as they improve the defense, and inject some youth (Rakhshani and Ullstrom) into the lineup.
+ (Goals Against) 32/2.46
DEC(43/3.07), NOV(46/3.54), OCT(22/2.44), TOT(143/2.92)
This vast improvement over the past two months and brings their season average below 3 again. This is a sign of improved goaltending and some tweaking of the defensive strategy. The bulk of the goaltending was handled by Nabokov, who was solid all month. They have been more aggressive in the neutral zone and this is paying off by not allowing opponents to enter their zone with speed. The improvement (recovery) of both Macdonald and Streit has helped as well.
- (EV Goal Diff) -4/-0.30
DEC(-9/-0.64), NOV(-15/-1.15), OCT(-6/-0.66), TOT(-34/-.41)
Their even strength performance has improved, but not to a level that should be acceptable. The main issue is secondary scoring. The PK has been terrific, so they will need to compliment that by playing a little tighter when they are at even strength. Most of this will be addressed with roster changes in the next few months. One improvement has been the fourth line. Wallace was an immediate improvement over Pandolfo, and when Pandolfo returned to replace Reasoner, Nino seemed to get a little more responsible. The next wave should be the upgrade from Rolston to Rakhshani.
+ PP (9/34/26%)
DEC(11/47/23%), NOV4/39/10%), OCT(7/33/21%), TOT(31/153/20%)
Except for November the PP has been a real positive. I blame it on Brian Rolston and mustaches. Their season level of 20% is 5th in the league.
+ PK (28/30/93%)
DEC(33/39/85%), NOV(33/43/77%), OCT(30/35/86%), TOT(124/147/84%)
93% is the best percentage they’ve achieved in the past two years and is among the tops in the league. Their season level of 84% is 8th in the league.
+ Attendance (12,670/27games)
Last year through 27 games their average attendance was 9,893. People are starting to come back!
+ Evgeni Nabokov (6-4-0) Very solid #1 performance. He carried a winning team through January. This leaves the team with some options. He is most likely being shopped, but if Montoya can’t match his performance would signing him for another year with the stable they have in BPT and Europe sound that bad. They are very deep at a position they were at rock bottom with two years ago.
? Al Montoya (incomplete) His one start was okay, but the other team was invisible to the refs.
- Rick Dipietro (infirmed) no starts.
+ Kevin Poulin (1-1) Had a tremendous January in BPT only to have it halted by a backup cold spell followed by a rusty 2 minutes. His next call up against Carolina was the kind of game the Isles needed. He made all the tough stops early and they picked up the pace to beat the canes. He is another reason why the Islanders will have a lot of options going into the trade deadline.
+ John Tavares (49-22-31-52/+4) (13-9-13-22/+11)
DEC(14-5-10-15/-3) NOV(13-1-4-5/-2) OCT(9-7-4-11/-2)
It’s almost safe to say that John Tavares has ARRIVED. Two months do not a career make. But he has been showing this new form all year and just waiting for his teammates to catch up. It’s easy to say that JT, at 22, is the best forward the islanders have drafted since the dynasty era. If that doesn’t make him “generational” WHO CARES! He’s definitely in the top 30 under the age of 25.
+ Matt Moulson (49-23-23-46/+11) (13-6-11-17/+8)
DEC (9-9-18/+3) NOV(13-6-2-8/+1) OCT(9-2-3-5/-1)
Moulson is having his best run as an Islander… and that’s saying a lot for a guy who’s put home 30 goals two years in a row. January has pulled him very close to PPG pace which is phenomenal when you consider how much they gave up to get him… Neil Smith…this is a big deal! BTW: Don’t discount Matty’s DEC and JAN as motivation for JT’s outright EXPLOSION. The competition between the two has been incredible since they started playing together in 2009. When Matty starts making babies JT is going to have to start his very own reality show… if you know what I mean.
- Michael Grabner (48-14-7-21/-14) (13-4-1-5/-2)
DEC(3-2-5/-9) NOV(13-4-4-8/-1) OCT(9-3-0-3/-2)
Three and four goal months are not what the islanders want to see out of Michael Grabner. He’s recently engaged and has a little gremlin running around the house. That hasn’t seemed to affect his effort, but he just isn’t finishing enough opportunities. I think with a little stability with Nielsen and Parentau, he should have a nice February. I don’t think it will put him back on the 30 goal map, but a 20-25 goal season with all of the terrific PK and defense he plays is fine. (-14) is a little concerning at this stage of the season.
+ Kyle Okposo was added to the top line at the end of December. All he’s done is put up a (13-6-6-12/+6) “devilish” month of January. Those are the kind of numbers we have expected from Kyle when he matured… and he’s definitely paying off. Kyle helped FNGO become something special last year. There is no doubt that JT and Matty six-pack have helped him find a little more offense, but Kyle is more than pulling his weight on a high octane first line.
- Brian Rolston. Do I really need to recount another listless month? Hello Rhett, hopefully means adios Brian. (12-0-0-0/-7)… anybody wanna do a COZO for this BOZO? This is how we teach the kids how to be winners? He deserves the same fate as Blake Comeau. Thanks for givin' in the ol' college try. Enjoy your retirement.
+ Travis Hamonic . No need to put up stats… he’s going to be here with a plus as long as I’m doing these and he is performing at this level.
+ Andrew Macdonald…is back. January was a very good month for the first pairing. Neither is racking up the points thus far, but both are engaged and making good hockey decisions.
- Mark Streit. This is the second month in a row I’m giving Streit a minus. The islanders scored 9 PP goals in JAN and Mark Streit had a hand in 6 of them. He may have had a hand in more but he had 1PPG and 5PPA in Jan. That’s pretty much it. His decisions have been awkward at best. Mostly bad. He doesn’t seem to have the wheels that his brain thinks he has. Some of this may be his partners, but it’s the top guy in the pairing that has to shoulder the load. His best days as an islander were with Bruno Gervais… Mark is regressing. Again, like last month, I’m going to put it on recovery time. He’s actually played a little better each month… but he hasn’t really played up to his standard since returning.
+ Rhetturn of Rakhshani is a nice sign for the future. If Rhett can prove to be a consistent NHLer he should help solve some of the bottom six mystery and maybe help clear up the Josh Bailey conundrum.
+ The AHL Bridgeport SoundTigers had an incredible January. There are a few players on the tigers that will make a home in Uniondale some day. Kevin Poulin is surely one of them. Matt Donovan is another to keep an eye on. We have seen some good things from David Ullstrom and will probably get to see more as the NHL season progresses. One of the brightest stars is January Player of the Month, Casey Cizikas. Oddly, Casey is a rookie, but didn’t win Rookie of the Month honors.
- Why did they wait so long to sit guys like Mottau and Rolston. Why can’t we see where Wishart stands. Why can’t they give Mark Streit a few days off. In his first game back from the all-star break he earned 2 power play assists and a PLUS RATING. You have 3 roster spots to rotate guys in and out of the lineup, not to manage your cap number. Hopefully this is a lesson for next year.
What to look for in January
The playoffs are pretty much out of the question. The team can get back to respectability though. They have had some great nights by their top line, and a progression by sub-25YO prospects. A good second half by Ullstrom, Nino and maybe one of the highly touted defensive prospects(dehaan, Donovan, Katic), or even an appearance or two by Rhett or casey could give 2012 some spark.
What we saw in January
They played at a playoff pace. Respectable. Their top line may have been the best in January. The prospects in the NHL improved (Nino). David Ullstrom was injured, but we got to see a very good game by Rhett Rakhshani to close out the month.
What to look for in February. (same as January)
The trade deadline. They have two very attractive expiring contracts. Snow would do well to extend both, but he may be able to fix a deep organizational problem by trading either. The hot stove will be interesting to watch in the following months. It won’t be fun though, because losing Nielsen or Parenteau will be hard to take.