The New York Islanders defeated the Winnipeg Jets 6-2 on New Year’s Eve to close out what has been a mixed year for the franchise. 2016 brought the Isles their first playoff win in 23 years, but it has also started one of the worst seasons in recent memory when compared to the expectations for the team. The 2016 half of the 16-17 season is one to forget, with the Islanders sitting at 7th in the Metropolitan division at NHL .500, 8 points out of a wild card spot. A seemingly illogical three-goalie rotation has been one of the bigger storylines, one that will end with the year as Jaroslav Halak cleared waivers and is now a member of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The New York Islanders have been seen as a team on the rise for a couple of seasons, but now enter 2017 surrounded with uncertainty.
However, this was the 5th straight game the Isles have scored 4+ goals in, and the team has shown flashes of what could be. Ryan Strome has 5 points in his last 4 games, Andrew Ladd has 6 goals in his last 11 games after a horrendous start to the season, and Anders Lee, John Tavares, and Josh Bailey have clicked. If they can keep the offense going in 2017, there’s at least some hope to climb up in the standings.
Nikolay Kulemin opened up the scoring for the Islanders about 7 minutes into the first, picking up his own rebound to put the puck past Connor Hellebuyck. It was a smart play by Kulemin, and bad rebound control from Hellebuyck, who did not pick up his play as the game went on.
John Tavares added to the scoring not too long after, off a great pass from Josh Bailey. Tavares was able to knock big Dustin Byfuglien down, and he and Anders Lee worked to keep control of the puck, which led to the goal, putting the Islanders up 2-0.
Despite being outshot, the Isles closed out the period up by 2, in part thanks to a crease-clearing save by Johnny Boychuk off of a good play by Byfuglien and Nikolaj Ehlers.
Early in the second, Thomas Greiss, who has definitely earned the number one goalie spot with the amount of saves he’s been making, added another with a huge save on a point blank shot from Adam Lowry. If the Jets hoped that defensive lapse would be the start of a comeback, they were sadly mistaken.
Ryan Strome and Shane Prince have shown flashes of chemistry whenever they’ve been put on a line together, and they combined for the Isles third goal of the game on only nine shots on goal.
Johnny Boychuk took a penalty for high sticking, however once he came out of the box, he was able to contribute to the Winnipeg beat down. Boychuk passed the puck to Ryan Strome, who beat Hellebuyck fivehole to end his night and forced the Jets to bring in Michael Hutchinson.
The Islanders’ power play woes continued as they gave up a shorthanded goal from Shawn Matthias to end the second period up 4-1.
The first line’s strong play continued as Anders Lee scored his team leading 14th goal on a one handed (!!!) shot, assisted by Josh Bailey, whose 19th assist places him as the team assist leader.
Lee's team-leading 14th (and BaIley's team-leading 19th assist)— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) January 1, 2017
Andrew Ladd also reminded his old team what he can bring as he scored a power play goal, one that Hutchinson probably should have had. It was Ladd’s 6th goal in the past 11 games, and four in his last four games. Hopefully that hot streak continues to make up for a terrible start to the season.
Nikolaj Ehlers made the score line slightly more respectable with a power play goal late in the third period, but it was too little, too late, for a Jets team that played well but was sunk by poor goaltending. Isles fans know that fate a little too well.
The MSG Intermission did a segment asking the Islanders to name New Years Resolutions for their teammates, and while most of the resolutions were hair related (Josh Bailey wants Johnny Boychuk to shave his chest hair, Anthony Beauvillier wants Nick Leddy to shave his beard, and Ryan Strome wants Shane Prince to fix his hair), Anders Lee had a resolution for Thomas Hickey that Lighthouse Hockey readers (and specifically Dan Saraceni) can certainly appreciate. Lee wants to make sure Hickey packs and takes his fish oils, apparently, and so do we if it helps him score those OT goals.
The New York Islanders have their CBA mandated five-day break, so their next game is against the Colorado Avalanche on January 6th, in Colorado. The Avalanche have been struggling greatly this season, with the lowest point total in the NHL. If the Isles want 2017 to be better, starting it off with a win against a weak opponent would be the way to go. Happy New Year everyone and enjoy the extended break from Isles hockey.