Going into the season, the New York Islanders and their fans had a lot to be excited about.
The franchise had a new general manager in Lou Lamoriello, a new head coach in Barry Trotz, a schedule that included games at their old barn, and new goalie coach in Mitch Korn. Put all of these things together and you have things that give the franchise hope that good days are ahead.
To start the season, it appears that those hopes are on track. As of this writing, the Isles are 6-4-1, good for second place in the Metropolitan Division and just one point behind the division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins (who they play today).
Believe it or not, one of the main reasons why the team has a winning record right now is because of their defensive play. This is something that Trotz has always believed in, and, at least right now, his system is working on his new hockey club.
The team is currently third in the league in goals allowed. Yes, you read that right. They have given up 28 goals in 11 games, good for a 2.55 goals against per game average.
It starts with the team’s defensive play as whole. This team is a lot smarter with the puck in their own zone, they do a better job of getting in good position to breakup plays, they force a lot of turnovers, and, ultimately, they do a pretty good job of protecting their goaltenders.
Speaking of the team’s goaltending, they have actually gotten some so far this season. While Trotz has yet to really go with a true starting netminder, he’s had good play out of both Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss.
Lehner is currently 4-2-1 with a 2.45 goals against average, a .928 save percentage, and a shutout. When he is healthy and has no outside distractions, he has the potential to be a solid starting goaltender in this league so if he can be those things, he should be solid the rest of the way.
Greiss is also off to a great start this season. As of right now, Greiss is 2-2 with a 2.26 goals against average and a .928 save percentage after struggling mightily last season.
The team also has not been bad offensively. The club is led by Josh Bailey (12 points), Mathew Barzal (12 points), and Anders Lee (11 points). These three have combined for 35 points and, for now at least, the offense is going through them. With that said, the Isles have also had good production from the likes of Brock Nelson (7 points), Valtteri Filppula (7 points), and Jordan Eberle (6 points).
Overall, the club’s offense is 12th in the league in goals scored, with 36 goals in 11 games. This means they are scoring about three goals per game, which also gives them a +8 differential.
It’s still early for Lamoriello, Trotz, and their hockey team, but for right now at least, things are moving in the right direction and they are doing it without John Tavares.
*Photo: Associated Press