You could say that the New York Islanders can’t be stopped. Maybe it’s more appropriate to say that their goalies can’t stop making stops.
Either way, a back-to-back set didn’t end the Islanders’ astounding winning streak, as they blanked the Buffalo Sabres 1-0 on Saturday, pushing their run to nine consecutive victories. In this case, Semyon Varlamov got his first shutout with the Islanders, making 27 saves, while the game’s only goal was a funky one for Derick Brassard.
Some might point to that Brassard goal as a fitting example of the bounces going the Islanders’ way, but they’re earning their wins. If you were looking for a thrillride, the Islanders and Sabres combining for only one goal as both teams closed up back-to-backs probably wouldn’t be your tonic. If you love scrappy, double-your-ice-pack affairs, this was it. The Islanders’ number of blocked shots (14) wasn’t that far behind their total shots on goal (21).
These nine wins in a row tie the second-best mark in franchise history, but as NHL PR notes, the Islanders have a big mountain to climb if they want to tie or exceed the best-ever mark. Back in 1982, the Islanders rattled off 15 consecutive wins.
The Islanders do play their next four games at home, so that might help them at least break that tie with the 1989-90 team that also rattled off nine straight wins.
Again, there is a “something has to give” element that begs at least some mention. The Islanders now have averaged less than two goals allowed during this run, as they’ve only yielded 16 goals in nine wins. As great as that Trotz system is, you have to assume that one of Varlamov or Thomas Greiss might have an off night. Even in the comforting embrace of that protective defensive shell.
I mean … right? It’s a long season.
Those thoughts should not take away from the ridiculous job Trotz and the rest of this team is doing. Beyond this winning streak, they’ve shown that they’re a tough out during the games that are supposed be a squad’s biggest challenges:
That sort of hardiness could really come in handy during the playoffs, when goals and space — and penalties — become that much tougher to find.
You could say that this Islanders team is already in postseason form. Whatever way you slice it, they remain the hottest team in the NHL.
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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.