With a lineup consisting of a few plugs and a couple of AHLers, the New York Islanders have somewhat improbably won two games in a row to teams with better points percentages than them, which are huge for their playoff push.
Last night, Ilya Sorokin did his thing and held the Winnipeg Jets to one goal (more on that below), allowing the Islanders to prevail even though they scored only twice. Two Swedes who hadn’t played much or at all before this season—Sebastian Aho and Simon Holmstrom—tipped the scales in favor of New York. The Jets were on their third game in four nights, having played the first two legs of every team’s New York/New Jersey trip on Sunday and Monday, but the Islanders turned in a downright Trotzian performance to limit their chances and make life a little easier for Sorokin than they have for most of the season.
I’d be remiss if I did not mention Arnaud Durandeau, who looks like a guy who doesn’t want to go back to Bridgeport and has shown good chemistry with Casey Cizikas and his call-up-turned-regular inspiration, Hudson Fasching.
I’d also be remiss if I did not mention Bo Horvat, who has been as advertised since arriving and extending, stabilizing a lineup that lost its most dynamic talent for weeks. On Monday, he scored the tying goal and helped start the play that set up the game-winner; on Wednesday, he created two chances that led to the game-winner, setting up Holmstrom’s sneaky snipe.
The Islanders still have played more games than any other team thus far, both in the NHL and, consequently, in the East wild card race. But their points percentage continues to rise. And games in hand only matter if you win them; the Islanders building themselves a little cushion puts pressure on those teams to actually win those games, a task easier said than done and one that The Models can’t properly account for.
And don’t look now, but the Isles are 7-2-2 in their last 11 games, taking away 16 points from that stretch, tied for the most in that span (courtesy of Eric Hornick’s 900th consecutive NYISkinny). Despite those three consecutive losses to the lesser Canadian teams, the Islanders are one of the hottest teams in the NHL—fancy that.
Last night’s action:
- No Mathew Barzal? No J-G Pageau? No problem for the Sorokin and Holmstrom show. Even first-line Matt Martin looked pretty good. [LHH]
- Importantly, the Islanders are finding ways to win when previously they had been finding ways to lose. [amNY] It helps when you have Sorokin, who allowed one or fewer goals for the 40th(!) time in his thus far short NHL career. That’s absurd. [NHL]
- It was surely even more rewarding for Sorokin—whose English has improved leaps and bounds as seen in the First Star interview—that he beat fellow likely Vezina finalist Connor Hellebuyck, who was also quite good. [Newsday]
#Isles Matt Martin on Ilya Sorokin:— Stefen Rosner (@stefen_rosner) February 23, 2023
“The more English he speaks, the yappier he gets around here.”
The question was about his calm demeanor in big situations and how he stays so level-headed.
- After being challenged by coach Lane Lambert, it was nice to see Holmstrom bounce back with the game-winner in limited ice time. [3 Takeaways] He may not have played if not for the injuries, but he made the most of his night. [Newsday | NY Post]
- Holmstrom is an unlikely hero, but the Islanders are going to need some unlikely heroes in this final push. [The Athletic]
- They needed the breathing room, and now they have some. [NY Post]
- Stats from the game [Islanders] and more stats and highlights. [NHL]
- The Winnipeg perspective of last night’s game, including Rick Bowness’ post-gamer. [Illegal Curve]
- Lambert had more to say than usual.
Lambert Postgame Availability pic.twitter.com/X5SPgr30Cx— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 23, 2023
Onward and backward:
- Before the game, the Isles sent down Andy Andreoff and recalled Otto Koivula again to be 4C; not sure if Koivula is going to stick around again after a meh game and a bad penalty. [Isles DTD]
- Zach Parise doesn’t want to go anywhere this trade deadline; he wants to stick around for the Islanders’ playoff run. I love this guy! [Newsday]
- Ross Johnston has not played much this season, but he has played more lately with all the injuries and has provided the snarl they needed. He is dragging them into the fight. [amNY]
- The Isles Lab at UBS Arena has been both an in-arena retail and cultural success. [Forbes]
- Checking in on the East wild card race, which has been volatile, to say the least. Certainly exciting, though. [The Athletic]
Last night’s NHL scores include only two other games, neither of which has any relevance to the Islanders’ playoff race: The Calgary Flames on the road fell behind 3-1 and then ripped off five straight goals to top the Arizona Coyotes 6-3; and the Chicago Blackhawks, who trailed 3-0 to the Dallas Stars, roared all the way back to win 4-3 on the road thanks to Patrick Kane and Max Domi.
- The Blackhawks earlier in the evening made a trade to weaponize their cap space, taking on the remainder of Nikita Zaitsev’s contract and getting second- and fourth-round picks from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for future considerations. Chicago now has nine picks in the first two rounds of the next two drafts. [NHL]
- Brock Boeser is looking forward to the trade deadline; he wants a move, but more than that, he wants something resembling stability, and at least after the deadline he’ll know where he’ll be the rest of the season, whether still with the Vancouver Canucks or elsewhere. [Sportsnet]
- As expected, the Toronto Maple Leafs officially shut down Jake Muzzin for the rest of the season as he recovers from spinal surgery. [NHL]
- The Isles’ win was big because Winnipeg is a good team, challenging for the Central Division title. Mason Appleton joined The Rink podcast to chat about it. [NHL]
- The New York Rangers have undeniably been playing well in spite of Igor Shesterkin’s now-alarming struggles. May they continue in perpetuity. He might be hurt and playing through it unwisely. [Inside the Rink]
- For this week’s written 32 Thoughts, of which there are again 32, Elliotte Friedman checks in on the deadline plans of all 32 teams. As always, no one knows what Lou is up to.