The first rule of identifying hot streaks (for easy headline consumption, anyway) is you pick a not-so-arbitrary cutoff of the last time a team stunk for multiple nights. In the case of the Islanders, victors of 15 of their last 20 possible points, that cutoff is the three-game losing streak that ended before Christmas.
Since that point, the Islanders are 7-2-1 by NHL standings. Peel back a layer of the NHL's artificial parity gloss, and in those 10 games they've compiled an expanded record of 3-1-3-2-0-1, meaning:
|Dec. 23 - Jan. 12 ||GP||W reg. ||OTW||SOW ||L reg. ||OTL||SOL ||GF ||GA||ShF/gm ||ShA/gm||Sv.%
Still being outshot, still getting Roloson-style goaltending. Take out Rick DiPietro's game (4 GA on 28 shots), and you have an even better save percentage over nine games of .931, including Martin Biron's lone appearance of 28 saves on 30 Flyers shots.
Gabe at Behind the Net will tell you that, over time, standings points awarded after a regulation tie have a lot to do with luck. A team that appears great in the extra period or breakaway drill one year (or month) is just as likely to appear awful in another. Of course, in the shootout, having Frans Nielsen helps.
Still, the Islanders aren't exactly feasting on luck: With four bonus-round "wins" during this hot run, they may just be evening their ledger in the extra period. The Islanders have gone to more OT games (17) than any team thus far -- but that alone hasn't given them a ton of extra* points: They're just 9-8 in OT/SO overall, 4-5 in shootouts specifically. (Of course, their .500-ish record does flatter a team that is just 11-19 in regulation, but that's a discussion for another day, when we're not riding high from a 6-0 demolition).
* "Extra point" here means the point awarded to a team that scores during 4-on-4 OT or survives the shootout. Under the NHL's scheme, each team receives a point for a regulation tie, then they play a quick round of pick-up and (if necessary) breakaway drills to double their money.
Aside from talk of OT luck and shots and goaltending, a very hopeful thing sticks out in this run (a run skewed by last night's 6-0 win, of course): The Islanders have been scoring, and it's been their youth who have done the job. But it hasn't been the big-name youth who was doing the job during the first quarter of the season.
We know John Tavares -- who hasn't scored a goal since the beginning of this 10-game run -- has been in his first prolonged rookie-year slump. But that's just fine, in one sense: Where in October and November, they relied heavily on the 19-year-old's hands, right now they're winning without production from him:
|Dec. 23 - Jan. 12||G||A||P||+/-||Shot on Goal
Who are the "hottest" Islanders on the scoresheet during this run? You probably already know who, but enjoy this small sample:
|Dec. 23 - Jan. 12||GP||G||A ||Pts ||+/-|
*You know I would have put the two-way Nielsen on this list even if he had zero points, because you should worship him anyway. It's just the law; you have no choice. Respect the Great Dane or face the consequences.
Thanks to this team's youth -- and the hope placed on those shoulders -- every step forward gives an enticing glimpse at what may come for this team in the years ahead. Except in net, they're not relying on aging vets to produce. They're relying on a young waiver claim (the exciting yet unwritten book that is Rob Schremp Hockey) and three other kids who one day, if we're lucky, could make them great again.
Going out on a limb here, but I'm pretty sure John Tavares will be a part of that, too.