After an 8-3 defeat against the Nashville Predators earlier this week, questions about the New York Islanders being an elite team in the Eastern Conference began to arise.
With a 3-2 shootout win on the road against the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins, the Islanders answered the naysayers.
Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves and stopped two of three shooters in the shootout in his 12th win of the season. Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle both scored in the skills competition as the Islanders snapped a seven-game winless streak against the Bruins.
Varlamov showing his worth
The Russian netminder made his best save of the night late in the second period when he robbed Anders Bjork with his glove. Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy circled the net before sending a cross-ice pass to Bjork but Varlamov stretched out and snagged the puck to keep the game tied at the time.
When Lou Lamoriello signed Varlamov this summer to replace Robin Lehner, the move was far from universally praised. But the Islanders front office has proven their ability to identify talent in between the pipes.
If Varlamov continues to trend in the right direction, would Lamoriello consider moving Thomas Greiss at the trade deadline in order to collect a few additional assets? Goaltending has been a strength for the Islanders since Barry Trotz and his lieutenants have arrived, but is subtracting Greiss from the roster a smart gamble?
Pastrnak’s filthy move
When your team loses in a shootout, incredible dekes are often forgotten.
But, David Pastrnak‘s slick move in the second round is worth remembering. The NHL-leading goal scorer slid from his backhand to his forehand before Varlamov could even react.
The goal won’t count toward his total, and the Bruins will leave with only one point, but the shootout gave Pastrnak another forum to display his impressive skills, and the forward took full advantage.
— NHL (@NHL) December 20, 2019
Does Rask have a flaw in the shootout?
Both Eberle and Barzal converted their shootout attempts with wrist shots instead of attempting a deke.
Eberle skated in on the left side of the ice and fired a wrist shot past Tuukka Rask’s blocker, while Barzal flew down the middle of the ice before slowing and eventually wiring a wrist shot over the glove.
Do the Islanders know something about Rask that the NHL has not figured out?
It certainly could have been a coincidence, but will be interesting to see if other players opt for the same strategy against Rask in his next shootout appearance.
The GAME-WINNER in the shootout from @Barzal_97.
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) December 20, 2019