This may sound strange coming from a New York Rangers fan, but I do not hate the New York Islanders.
Sure, they beat the Rangers a lot and yes, they are team that is easy to make fun of, but all in all, I actually respect their hockey club. They have a lot of young guys that have a lot of talent, are fun to watch, and make things exciting.
Well, I am now fully on the Isles’ bandwagon this season. Again, I know I’m a Rangers’ guy, but what the Isles have done this season is absolutely remarkable.
The team is first in the Metropolitan Division and fifth in the entire National Hockey League with 76 points. Yes, you read that right.
This team is legit, folks. They are doing it with tremendous defense, outstanding goaltending, and timely goal scoring.
Defensively, the Isles are the best team in the league. They have allowed 133 goals in 58 games, which means that they have a team goals-against average of 2.33.
It never used to be this way for this franchise. This team always used to give up a ton of shots and a ton of goals and because of those two things, it led to a lot of losses.
Under new head coach Barry Trotz, those ways have changed. They play a much tighter and responsible defensive system.
Speaking of keeping the puck out of the net, both of the team’s netminders have been terrific this season. They have essentially split the season and up until this writing they have exceeded expectations.
Robin Lehner has had one heckuva year for this hockey club. He is currently 18-9-4 with a 2.08 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage, and has three shutouts.
The fact that Lehner is having an unbelievable season is not only huge for his confidence and himself personally, but it’s great for him financially as well. He is currently on a one-year deal and could be a hot commodity once the season ends.
Thomas Greiss has also been excellent for this team. He is currently ( 17-8-2 with a 2.20 goals-against average, a .930 save percentage, and four shutouts.
Believe it or not, the Isles essentially have the two best goaltenders in the league. When was the last time they had a netminder who was even one of the best in the league?
Lastly, the team has been getting timely offense this season. Mathew Barzal is currently having a great sophomore season as he currently has 50 points on 17 goals and 33 assists.
Other guys that have contributed offensively this season have been guys like Josh Bailey (44 points), Anders Lee (39 points), and Brock Nelson (37 points). This guys are all home-grown Islanders that this team needs moving forward if they want to continue to have success.
This team is a lot of fun to watch folks. They play fast, they go hard to the net, they get great goaltending, and they are very creative with the puck.
If things continue to be this way for the Islanders, there is no telling what they could end up accomplishing come April.
*Photo: The Associated Press