Last night’s game was just what the New York Islanders needed. It was perhaps not exactly their best game, but it was a solid performance on the road against the Columbus Blue Jackets, capped off by heeding my request in yesterday’s post to silence the cannon. Semyon Varlamov didn’t allow a single goal, stopping 34 shots for the shutout and his first win of the year.
After an 0-2-1 stretch, the Islanders have strung together two wins in a row and sit at 4-2-1 through seven games, with an identical record to the New Jersey Devils but sitting ahead of them, third place in the Metro Division, by virtue of an extra regulation win—all four of the Isles’ win have been in regulation. They have a better points percentage than the Carolina Hurricanes, currently in second in the division, and they’re only three points back of the New York Rangers for first in the division. Both the teams ahead of them have played more games than the Islanders.
Not to mention, they will be over NHL .500 on November 1 even if they drop tomorrow night’s home date against the Detroit Red Wings, which is critical, as researched by Elliotte Friedman (he references it frequently on the 32 Thoughts Podcast), to prevent falling too far out of the race.
That said, a win tomorrow would put them at 5-2-1, a nice record for the first month of the season. It would also mean that they would have earned them at least one win over the three Atlantic Division teams who haven’t made the playoffs in years that everyone keeps saying are going to push for Wild Card spots.
The Red Wings started the season red hot. Although they lost their first game, they won their next five. However, they have cooled off of late, losing their last three contests.
About last night:
- Varlamov got the shutout after Kyle Palmieri scored in the first period, and Matt Martin added some insurance late in the third. They capitalized on two mistakes by Columbus goalie Spencer Martin, who was otherwise pretty good. [LHH]
- The Isles gave up 34 shots but did lock it down through different portions of the game. [NY Post] They blocked quite a few shots. [THN]
- It was the 39th shutout of Varlamov’s career. [Newsday] And it was a pretty impressive performance; the backup has looked great through his first two starts. [NY Post] Stan Fischler thought so, too. [THN]
- Lane Lambert swapped Mathew Barzal and Oliver Wahlstrom because the Bo Horvat line wasn’t playing great—Barzal in particular had a bit of a rough go—but he said Barzal will be right back on top tomorrow. [3 Takeaways]
- Lambert thought Wahlstrom had his best game of the season so far. [THN]
- The Jackets had been on a four-game point streak before their dud last night. [The Cannon]
- Brock Nelson had eight shots on net, Casey Cizikas tied Mike Bossy for ninth all-time in Isles games played, and a bunch of individual point streaks on both teams were snapped. [NYI Skinny]
Other Isles bits:
- Although the Isles’ top line wasn’t great last night, Barzal has been adjusting well to the wing and entering the night thought their line was the best one of the previous week. [Newsday]
- With Long Island-native Shane Pinto’s lengthy suspension for gambling, the Islanders and players around the league want some clarity on what’s permitted with gambling. The league doesn’t have a comprehensive set of rules, which feels like malpractice. [Newsday]
- The Maven lists his 20 favorite Islanders goalies. [THN] He also recalls the hunt Bobby Nystrom’s Cup-winning stick. [Maven’s Memories]
- Tonight at 7:00 p.m. ET is the Heritage Classic between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, both of whom have been bad. But the Oilers should get a boost, as it seems likely that Connor McDavid will return tonight. [NHL | Sportsnet]
- Blake Wheeler returns to Winnipeg for the first time since leaving tomorrow night. It should be emotional for the former captain who has not looked good since joining the New York Rangers this season. [NHL]
- 44-year-old Jumbo Joe Thornton officially announced his retirement after 24(!) seasons. Unfortunately, he never did win a Stanley Cup, but he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when his time comes. [NHL]
- The thing about hockey we’re all afraid of: American former NHLer Adam Johnson, who had been playing in England, died after being cut in the neck by a skate blade. It was announced as a “major medical emergency” that required players to leave the ice and fans to leave the building. It was announced today that he passed away. Horrific incident, and one wonders if it leads to the NHL considering neck guards. Rest in peace, Adam. [SI | NHL]