Everything’s been coming up Milhouse for the New York Islanders lately.
They improved to 18-12-3 on the season by beating the Kings 4-3 in overtime on Saturday, and hope to continue their five-game homestand with a win against the Red Wings tonight. Their offense looks especially deadly lately, with Mathew Barzal – Jordan Eberle providing potent support to the dangerous line of John Tavares, Josh Bailey, and Anders Lee.
Chances are, when things are going well for the Islanders, Tavares is in the middle of it … but it still must feel great for the star to feel like he doesn’t have to do it all.
Speaking of Tavares, one could barely get out word about the Islanders reportedly winning a bid for a new arena at Belmont Park before people wondered if this means that number 91 will re-sign with the franchise.
So, will he?
As you can see in the video above, the arena development and improved support make Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones feel a lot better about Tavares re-signing with the Islanders after recent developments. Just like with everyone basically outside of Tavares’ inner circle, the best we can still do is merely guess.
But perhaps this is a good excuse to ponder the rise in Isles around Tavares.
In the interest of brevity, we’ll limit this to Tavares’ linemates, but do note that Barzal (29 points in 33 games) and Eberle (24 points in 33 GP) have been effective, too.
Tavares himself: 40 points in 33 GP coming into tonight, +4 rating. He has a chance to best his current career-highs of 38 goals and 86 points from 2014-15, as Tavares has already connected for 19 tallies.
Josh Bailey: As the ninth pick of the 2008 NHL Draft, it’s been an up-and-down development for Bailey. Some Islanders execs and fans might greet his breakthrough with an uttering of “finally.”
Either way, it’s remarkable that Bailey came into Tuesday with 40 points in 33 games, just like Tavares (though Bailey has been more of a distributor with nine goals and 31 assists).
Bailey actually already has a goal and an assist so far tonight, so with 42 points and counting, he’s already enjoyed the second-most-productive season of his career, with only 2016-17’s 56 topping that.
To some extent, it’s surprising that Bailey is finally truly putting it all together after it seemed like he might drift off to journeyman status if a few more middling seasons came. Now about the worst thing you could say about Bailey is that he’s benefiting from Tavares’ presence. (Duh.)
Anders Lee: Much like Bailey, Lee really blew up last season, scoring 34 goals and 52 points in 2016-17.
Lee is keeping his sniping ways going, as he came into Tuesday with 20 goals and added at least one tonight.
While Tavares and Bailey were blue-chip prospects who went early in their respective first rounds, Lee stands as a nice steal by the Isles, as we was selected in the sixth round (152nd overall) in 2009. He’s already in the middle of his third 20+ goal season, serving as a big body who can finish scoring chances for this line.
Things have really been picking up for the Islanders, in a large part because this top line doesn’t need to score virtually every goal. Still, make no mistake about it, this trio seems primed to be a headache for opponents on a daily basis.
If everything works out, that combination will be available for the Isles in 2018-19 and beyond.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.