It’s New York Islanders Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The New York Islanders.

Last season was a disappointment for a lot of reasons for the Islanders.

After making the playoffs in 2013, they plummeted to last place in the Metropolitan Division. While the offense was all right, the Isles problems centered around their defense and goaltending as they finished 28th out of 30 in the league in goals allowed per-game giving up 3.18 per. Only the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers were worse.

Even the brightest spot on offense, John Tavares, suffered his own pitfalls. He suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Olympics in Sochi, something that didn’t sit well with GM Garth Snow. As for how he played when healthy, he had 66 points (24 goals) in 59 games and still nearly finished the season as the team leader in points.

Instead, Kyle Okposo picked up the slack in Tavares’ absence and ended the season leading the team in goals (27) and points (69) – both career highs. Just think of what he would’ve done if Tavares could’ve finished the season with him and Thomas Vanek (44 points in 47 games).

Frans Nielsen provided another bright spot up with career-highs in both goals (25) and points (58) as well. With Nielsen and Okposo providing highs, seeing Michael Grabner regress to 12 goals in 64 games was disappointing. The Isles did get a glimpse of the future as both Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome showed signs they’ll be key contributors soon.

Where the Isles had their biggest problems were on the back end. Injuries kept Lubomir Visnovsky off the ice for most of the season and they dealt Andrew MacDonald to the Flyers at the trade deadline. Travis Hamonic came back to the pack a bit after strong play two seasons ago, but guys like Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan had a chance to show what they had and should get a shot to own a spot in the top six next season.

After seeing Evgeni Nabokov come up small against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs, he showed basically what he is putting up a .905 save percentage while dealing with a handful of injury issues. Both Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson showed how young they were by not being able to keep up with NHL-level players when Nabokov was out. Things in goal will be decidedly different next season or else coach Jack Capuano might be in real trouble.

Offseason recap

It was an adventurous offseason on Long Island for both GM Garth Snow and owner Charles Wang.

The Islanders fixed their biggest problem, goaltending, right away by trading for Jaroslav Halak and then signing him to a new deal. Adding Chad Johnson as his backup after a successful season in Boston means, suddenly, stopping pucks shouldn’t be their biggest concern.

Adding Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin to their crew of forwards should bring a marked improvement in depth. With Tavares, Grabovski, Nielsen, and Casey Cizikas they’re looking strong up the middle. They didn’t exactly address their needs on the blue line, but may have gotten a bit of a steal signing the AHL’s top defenseman T.J. Brennan.

The biggest change, however, came recently that Wang is selling the team to former Washington Capitals owner Jon Ledecky. With next season being the last one on Long Island, they’re trying to go out with a bang.

A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

— Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

“They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

“We have lots of good players.”

In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

“We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.