Graziano: Islanders Defying Analytics In Early-Season Surge

Andy Graziano
November 08, 2019 - 10:49 am

The New York Islanders just completed a 10-game winning streak, their second-longest in franchise history, and have collected points in 11 straight after last night’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

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All good things must come to an end, and the Islanders were ripe for a letdown, although the manner in which it happened, up 3-0 after the second period, was something nobody could have predicted on the heels of their recent surge.

We have mentioned it ad nauseum, but banking early season points is so crucial and the Islanders have done it with some early injuries to contend with, notably to defenseman Nick Leddy and wingers Jordan Eberle, Tom Kuhnhackl, Leo Komarov and Matt Martin. Here are 10 thoughts about the just-completed 10-game streak.

-Analytics tell a story, sure, and I’m not here to crush the hopes and dreams of stat crunchers out there. But—especially in the Islanders case—they just don’t account for all the intangibles that a top-notch coaching staff brings with it, nor the heart and grit of a tight locker room that truly plays for the logo on the front and not the name on the back. You aren’t supposed to be 11-3-1 with a streak in your pocket like they just had with a 46.3 Corsi while also getting outshot by 51.

-To all the Josh Bailey haters: Come on, man. I’m not sure what the guy must do, but he is tied for the team lead in points with Mathew Barzal (12) and is the best defensive forward on the a long shot. He has 195 points in his last 255 games.

-Speaking of Barzal, last season was his adjustment year under Trotz. He looks to be back to his dangerous self early in the 2019-20 campaign. Zone entries have been magnificent, and he is always the talisman in attack.

Mathew Barzal

-The Islanders have had 25 power-play opportunities in 15 games. Now, there have been some missed calls, sure, which can be said for most of the teams in the league, but that is where the possession numbers come into play. If the Islanders were to possess the puck more, they would draw more penalties. There is no conspiracy. They have allowed almost 100 shot attempts more than they’ve taken to date.

-Cole Bardeau was a surprise call-up. The fact of the matter is nobody probably even heard of him prior. How nice was it to see the youngster collect his first NHL goal in grand style, slipping a penalty shot past Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators? He has filled the Tanner Fritz role admirably.

-Nine goals from defenseman? Yes, please. For this team to be successful on offense, especially with the lack of off-season moves, they need everyone contributing. Devon Toews, Ryan Pulock and Leddy each have two and the only defenseman to not score a goal yet is 19-year-old Noah Dobson.

-Speaking of Dobson, how poised has he looked since stepping in for Leddy and getting consistent ice time? Defense is, arguably, the hardest position in the NHL to master and the kid is exactly as advertised. Calm, cool and smart with the puck. His instincts are off the charts.

-Oliver Wahlstrom’s nine games are up after Pittsburgh. If he plays one more game in the NHL, he burns a year of his entry-level contract. There is no indication as to how big of a deal that is to team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, but we’ll know prior to tomorrow afternoon’s game against the Panthers. He has played with grit and determination in an effort to stay, only being held back offensively by the line he has played on (Bardeau and Ross Johnston). It’s hard to see him stick when Komarov, Martin, Eberle, Kuhnhackl and Ladd return, so a trip back to the bridge might seem the likely outcome.

-Everyone talks up head coach Barry Trotz and goaltending guru Mitch Korn, and deservedly so. But the one guy who I’m told has been doing the bulk of the work with the goaltenders is Piero Greco. Semyon Varlamov would like to have a couple back against the Penguins, but the tandem he has formed with Thomas Greiss has not missed a beat. A legitimate coaching staff has given the Islanders a behind the scenes boost, in a huge way.

-Maybe you heard the news, maybe you didn’t, but you likely did. A state Supreme Court judge has denied the Village of Floral Park’s request to immediately stop construction activities on the Islanders’ arena at Belmont Park. It’s happening and the organization and its rabid, loyal fanbase will finally be getting what they deserve after decades of dysfunction. The last remaining question is … can they accomplish what Brett Yormark failed so miserably at. And that’s drawing fans outside of Long Island. Winning cures all. They just have to keep doing that.