After another win over a middling-at-best team, the Islanders are once again three games over NHL .500. But more encouraging to me is how they’ve looked doing it because they have also improved their play against playoff-caliber teams, even if the results haven’t always been there.
Ever since embarrassingly conceding four goals in under five minutes to the Colorado Avalanche in the first game this month, these guys have appeared more and more like the Barry Trotz–led New York Islanders of 2018–21. It seemed to jolt them out of their funk.
It isn’t at all likely that they qualify for the playoffs this year, but as I have written a lot recently, this has been encouraging for next season. And about this season: Hey, you never know.™
About last night:
- Led by the new top line of Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and Anthony Beauvillier, the Islanders from start to finish earned that victory over the Detroit Red Wings. [LHH]
- The Isles are 4-1-0 in their last five and 7-1-1 in their last nine. Fun with selective endpoints. [NHL]
- Ho hum, two more goals for Nelson, who now sits one shy of his first 30-goal season. [Rapid Recap]
- But the fast start, the strong penalty-killing, and strong goaltending from Ilya Sorokin set them on the right foot. [3 Takeaways]
- It was a chance for the Isles to see and play against former teammate Thomas Greiss, for whom many of the guys still have a soft spot. They smiled when they were asked about him. [Newsday]
- Unfortunately for Greisser, other than his nice tribute video, his return wasn’t pleasant for him. He gave up a goal just nine seconds into the game and was later removed after a collision with Oliver Wahlstrom. [Newsday]
Great tribute for Thomas Greiss as he returns to the Island pic.twitter.com/ezKEBSsdI2— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) March 24, 2022
- More evidence that these Islanders look like the ones we have come to know over the last few years: Including last night, they have scored the first goal of the game in 14 of the last 18 contests, and they alternated goalies for the 13th straight game. [NYI Skinny]
- Yesterday, the Islanders announced that Cal Clutterbuck will miss the rest of the season after shoulder surgery, and Scott Mayfield will miss four-to-six weeks (effectively the rest of the season barring a miracle) with a lower-body injury. [Newsday | Isles | amNY]
- Brian Compton guested on Chris Botta’s podcast, Hockey Press Pass, to discuss Lou’s non-moves and comments on trade deadline day.
- Greiss’s return reminded me of his time in tandem with Jaro Halak and then Semyon Varlamov and the importance of having two starter-quality goalies in your arsenal come playoff time. So though it might be nice to create some cap room this summer and not pay a no. 2 goalie $5 million, Varlamov may not be the best chip for the Isles to dispense.
Last night’s NHL scores include the Bruins topping the Lightning in the beginning of a three-way battle this weekend between us and the other two classes of the East over the last two years (we play the Bruins Saturday afternoon and welcome the Lightning Sunday afternoon). My, how things have changed for one of those three teams and not the ones we’re facing.
- The annual General Manager Meetings start Monday in Palm Beach, and one of the hot topics will be potentially closing the LTIR-loophole. [DFO Ice Breakers] How? Perhaps by continuing to enforce the salary cap into the postseason. [The Athletic]
- The Calgary Flames are really good. They remind me of the Islanders over the last two playoff runs: They play better with a lead, actually improving once up a goal or two instead of allowing score effects to kick in. [Win Column]
- But one player who has not improved and arguably even regressed (now that Johnny Gaudreau isn’t carrying him around anymore) is Sean Monahan, who is on the verge of being a healthy scratch. [Sportsnet]
- Vegas Golden Knights forward Brett Howden had to be stretchered off the ice, but is in stable condition and had full movement, after what his coach Peter DeBoer called a “dangerous hit” by Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg. [ESPN] And it was definitely dangerous. But I don’t think it was intended to be—it was just a regular puck battle, and Howden fell right as Forsberg committed to the hit.