New York Islanders Surprise out of the Gate, Stun Penguins and Leafs
Well, we find ourselves in a somewhat similar, yet unfamiliar situation six games in as Islander fans.
Last year, the Islanders had a strong start as well. However, the Islanders' road production was somewhat lackluster and most of the scoring came from the first line.
Currently, and far removed from last season, the Islanders have the fourth-most goals in the league and have had their scoring come from all over the first three lines. They have the third-best penalty kill and fourth-best power play.
The home-opening loss to the Devils wasn't exactly encouraging and the late period collapse against Tampa—in which the Islanders staved off the Lightening for the win—caused sweaty palms and heart palpitations.
Right away, anyone familiar with the team saw the defense had vastly improved from last season. Even the harshest critics of Garth Snow's waiver pickups of Keith Aucoin, Thomas Hickey, Brian Strait and Joe Finley have been silenced—except for Finley, who hasn't impressed much at all.
With the eventual arrival of Lubomir Visnovsky and an always responsible and capable Radek Martinek sitting out currently, the Isles' defense is shoring up nicely to a very capable and responsible squad on the blue line.
Moving onto the road trip, after going two goals down in the first period, the Islanders stormed back for a 7-4 triumph over the Maple Leafs. It left some hope in the hearts of Isles fans alike and a new offensively impressive team that had five different players score a goal that night.
Boston was the only real marred game so far in the road trip, DiPietro made his season debut and looked surprisingly solid in net. But that's not to say he was impressive. Minus the breakaway and a bit of a poke fest in front of the net resulting in a goal—he let up two more seemingly saveable goals.
The Islanders defense did their best to try and support a less than stellar goalie, but it wasn't enough. They fell to the Bruins 2-4 in what appeared to have been a very winnable game had the team been able to put a solid backup in net.
The Winnipeg game was a heart breaker.
After going up by two goals in the third period with just around 10 minutes left in the game, the Isles collapsed. They found themselves chasing the puck and unable to stave off two strong late-period drives, resulting in the tying of the game. Then the Isles failed to back check in overtime and fell to the Jets 4-5.
Probably one of the most complete and satisfactory wins this team has seen in years came Tuesday night against the Penguins. From the opening puck drop, the Isles outplayed, outscored and completely dominated the Penguins. The forecheck held the Pens in their own zone for lengths of time, creating scoring opportunities and keeping the potent offensive game to a minimal.
Casey Cizikas netted his first NHL goal in a deep-end turnover by the Penguins. Grabner struck on a weak blue-line pass interception, leading to a breakaway and goal. The Islanders sealed the Penguins' fate with two strong and impressive power-play goals that spread out and picked apart the Pens penalty kill. Colin McDonald got a five-minute major and misconduct boarding call for a late and somewhat dumb penalty, which was enough of a thriller to get Isles fans a little worried. The Isles killed the penalty off for a 100 percent kill rate last night and shut the door.
The Isles are now 3-0-0 in the last three games against the Penguins—two of those wins coming at the Consol Energy Center—which until recently has been nearly a guaranteed loss.
The Islanders now have secured five out of a possible ten points in this road trip, which already makes it a success. If the Isles can find a way to bring their play from last night to the Prudential Center and beat the Devils earning a further two points, it may just change the pace for this season.
You can follow Mike Blazowski on Twitter @mikeblazowski for Islanders updates and talk!
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