The New York Islanders have points in five consecutive games, which has put them above NHL .500 and in playoff position after a winless road trip sunk them to the bottom.
So how are we feeling? Still not super confident, it seems.
It’s been an interesting descent from the highs of last summer’s conference final run to the early-season slumping, according to our weekly SB Nation Reacts confidence polls:
From over 90% bright and cheerful after the playoffs to the mid-30s now?
We didn’t exactly give voters a choice of options, but the follow-up question identified a particular source of pain: 81% of our respondents said depth is a concern.
That can be a slightly narrower way of sharing concern about the roster overall, but it reflects the state of the Islanders in early 2021 vs. summer 2020: The team has not had multiple lines going at once this season, though the “Identity Line” is on a recent run popping in some timely goals. And on the blueline, the dropoff after the top three pairs — and after the retirement of Johnny Boychuk and trade of Devon Toews — is a concern, especially with the Scott Mayfield-Nick Leddy pairing still feeling its way in Toews’ absence.
Up front, the injury to Anthony Beauvillier has created some opportunities as the Islanders try to work in young forwards Kiefer Bellows and more recently Oliver Wahlstrom. That should give versatile center J-G Pageau a little more to work with, but he’s had quite a rotating cast this season.
Wingers with limited offense like Ross Johnston and Leo Komarov have been favored at times, while Austin Czarnik and Dmytro Timashov had ver brief — and in Timashov’s case, aborted — single-game cameos.
Looking Ahead: Depth Likely Tested This Month
Performance-wise, the Islanders are actually on their best run of the young season, having achieved at least a point in five consecutive games, a couple of them which were close to being regulation wins.
So the confidence poll above, taken at the beginning of this run, may reflect some of the lingering distaste of the early-season struggles. But the depth question will certainly persist. The Islanders are about to play nine games over the next 15 games, which means some back-to-backs and the possibility of more roster rotation. (On that note, the much-hyped Ilya Sorokin has only had a few appearances, with mixed results, so he is at this point an unproven part of their depth equation.)
The Islanders have not settled on their optimal lineup yet, despite us fans and readers helpfully telling them exactly what they should do on a daily basis. It’s sometimes said a GM and coach don’t truly have a feel for their team as constructed until the 20-game mark or so of a season. In a shortened season, that quarter mark is, well, just a few days away as they reach Game #14.
So...what about you? What’s your biggest concern? And if it’s depth, which area in particular?
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