NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Thursday’s matchup between the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
Boston has won the last seven meetings against the Islanders and 12 of the last 14 dating back to 2015. New York’s last win vs. Boston was on Jan. 16, 2017 when they won at TD Garden, 4-0. Claude Julien was the Bruins coach and Jack Capuano helmed the Islanders in that game in his final game as coach before Doug Weight took over.
The Bruins have lost six of their last seven (1-4-2) since winning eight straight. Boston’s recent struggles have been both on the road and at home, but the home decline is especially notable considering how they started the season. The Bruins began the season without a regulation home loss in its first 16 games in Boston going 12-0-4. They have since lost three straight home games (0-1-2) including suffering that first regulation home defeat.
For the Islanders, despite winning three of their last four, they’ve gone 6-5-0 over the last 11 games since a franchise record 17-game point streak (15-0-2 stretch).
Last season, the Islanders led the league in goals against and have been led again by their defense thus far this season, ranking fourth (2.50 goals against/game). One notable aspect to this is the split time in net by Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov, who have not only each started 16 games but neither have started consecutive games – they’ve alternated each game the entire season.
What has gotten into this guy? Is he trying to make it so we can’t call him just a pest any longer, like a lower-tier Brad Marchand, or something?
Either way, Pageau’s absolutely on fire. While, yes, one of his goals did come on an empty-netter, it’s still impressive that he generated the first hat trick of his career on Wednesday, especially without any time on Ottawa’s power play. JGP (who might need some sort of J.C. Penny-inspired nickname at this point?) was responsible for the game-winner to boot.
Pageau now has eight goals in his last six games, and at least one point (eight goals, one assist) in six of his last seven contests. Overall, he has 11 goals and 15 points through 18 games this season, although it’s this recent torrid pace that’s especially impressive. More on that in the factoids …
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Pageau’s career-high for goals is 19, and points is 43, both recorded in 2015-16.
It’s been a nightmare for Brassard basically from the moment he was part of the trade that sent Mika Zibanejad to the Rangers (and a higher draft pick to the Rangers than to the Senators, oh my). The once-useful forward couldn’t find his footing while bouncing around the NHL.
When the Islanders made a $1.2 million investment in Brassard for 2019-20, it felt like a low-risk move with the potential for a heartwarming turnaround. That seemed like a slim possibility when Brassard managed just a single assist through his first eight games for the Isles, but now he’s really picking up steam.
Brassard has 10 points in his last nine games after generating a one-goal, two-assist night as the Islanders thwarted John Tavares and the Maple Leafs on Wednesday. Avoiding the “we don’t need you” debate regarding Tavares, allow this: any team could use a resurgent player at just $1.2M in AAV.
Speaking of inspirational stories. Strome just never could really find his footing — or true opportunities, depending upon your perspective — as the third pick of the 2015 NHL Draft by the Arizona Coyotes. He’s found a new lease on life with Chicago, and while he’s suffered through some dry spells as the bounces slowed down a bit in 2019-20 vs. his 2018-19 run, Strome is hot again.
He scored two goals and one assist for three points on Wednesday, helping Chicago stun Vegas. Strome now has eight points (one goal, seven assists) in his last four games, representing a significant chunk of his 12 points in 17 games overall in 2019-20.
Strome’s teammate Patrick Kane ranks among other players with three goals (Kane also had 1G, 2A), if you prefer other choices.
Highlight of the Night
The Devils suffered another painful loss, but it will be more difficult to ignore Wayne Simmonds‘ sneaky-strong start to the 2019-20 season after he scored a goal like this:
Remember T.J. Oshie‘s epic shootout performance for the U.S. during the 2014 Winter Olympics? It turns out he still rules at that skill. The Capitals note that Oshie has scored on 44 of his 83 attempts, giving him the highest percentage (about 53) of any player with at least 60 shootout attempts.
Casey Cizikas is the 11th different Islanders player to record a game-winning goal so far this season (they have 13 wins overall). NHL PR notes that such a figure (11 different players with GWGs) leads the NHL at the moment in 2019-20. It’s a nice stat that drives home how everyone is pitching in for the Isles, right?
The Stars congratulatedCorey Perry for his 1,000th NHL regular-season game. Not sure how many goalies he’s “bumped into” or people he’s angered during that span, but I’d wager “more than a few.”
The New York Islanders are doing their part to silence the critics and doubters that were waiting for them to regress this season.
And they are silencing them emphatically.
With their 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night they extended their winning streak to 10 consecutive games, improved their record to 11-3-0 and pulled to within three points of the first place Washington Capitals while still having played in two fewer games.
After falling behind early, the Islanders scored four consecutive goals from four different players. Among the goal scorers were veterans Josh Bailey, Cal Clutterbuck, and Casey Cizikas, and rookie Cole Bardreau who scored his first career goal — also the game-winner — on a penalty shot.
So, about the Islanders.
I admit I was one of the people that was, let’s say skeptical, of their chances to repeat last year’s success and wasn’t sure how they would do without Robin Lehner. It was going to be a big test to see how much of the success was goaltending and how much of it was a real change to the defensive structure to a roster that, quite honestly, isn’t exactly loaded with All-Star talent, especially up front. But the results are the results, and they keep winning. A lot. The Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference as a whole is going to be extremely competitive this season and the Islanders have certainly given themselves an outstanding cushion.
They have a chance to extend their winning streak to 11 games on Thursday night when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team they swept in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs a year ago.
The New York Islanders could have played it safe a year ago when John Tavares bolted for Toronto.
But head coach Barry Trotz recognized an obvious candidate to fill a leadership role and didn’t hesitate to follow his instincts.
Anders Lee was in position to leave the organization as he headed toward unrestricted free agency and could have been the second captain in as many seasons to walk out the door.
But that didn’t stop Trotz from announcing Lee as the 15th captain in franchise history and the team is benefiting today from that important decision last season.
Lee changed the direction of the game with a critical goal in the early part of the first period in the Islanders’ 5-3 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday. The team’s seven-game winning streak is the longest (in a single season) since they won nine straight in the 1989-90 season per team statistician Eric Hornick.
The 29-year-old power forward won a race to the corner to help the Islanders establish possession in the offensive zone, then beat Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim to the back post to even the score at 3:17 of the first period.
”He’s our leader,” fourth-line center Casey Cizikas said. ”When you see him and he plays like that, getting to pucks, taking the body, fight in those dirty areas, you want to follow him. That’s what you want in your captain and he has done a tremendous job at leading us.”
The Islanders followed in Lee’s footsteps, scoring four of the next five goals as the team climbed to second place in the Metropolitan Division on the back of a seven-game winning streak following a 1-3-0 start to the season.
“You always look to your leadership and they’re going to set the tone,” Trotz said. “His (Lee) goal was a great example of leadership. Leadership is, you don’t have a license to do less, you have a responsibility to do more. He knew it was a big game, and he did more.”
The culture surrounding the Islanders has changed radically since Lou Lamoriello and Trotz arrived on Long Island. The Islanders have posted a 55-30-7 record and won a round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for only the second time since the 1992-93 season.
The Islanders have established an identity over that time as a defensively sound team that frustrates opponents. But their mental toughness has been the team’s attribute that has seen the most significant improvement.
Take Sunday for example. Flyers forward Jakub Voracek scored 1:07 into the game and the Islanders didn’t blink.
”It didn’t affect us.” Trotz said of the early deficit. ”I thought our minds were in the right place. I don’t think it even fazed us.”
One of Lee’s most impressive traits is that he does a tremendous job creating a familial atmosphere that translates to success on and off the ice.
Trotz and Lamoriello have played a large part in helping the Islanders form a new identity, but that message gets lost in the shuffle if a group of players is not able to relay the same information to their peers. Veterans Johnny Boychuk, Josh Bailey, Cal Clutterbuck have been able to assist, but they are clearly following in the footsteps of Lee.
The organization took a gamble naming Lee captain at the start of last season, a risk that is paying huge dividends today.
Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.
Islanders’ winning streak reaches 6 with game that had everything
Thanks to their 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Friday night the New York Islanders are now the owners of the NHL’s longest winning streak this season, extending their current streak to six games.
That winning streak matches their longest winning streak from the 2018-19 season. They will try to make it seven consecutive games on Sunday at home against the Philadelphia Flyers. Six of their next seven games take place on home ice.
But back to Friday’s game for a second because this one had a little bit of everything, including…
For about 20 minutes it appeared as if Leddy had recorded a natural hat trick by scoring three consecutive goals, which would have made him the first Islanders defender to record a hat trick since Denis Potvin. That moment in history would be short-lived, however, as a scoring change later took away his third goal and awarded it to forward Matt Martin. Tough break, but still a big night for one of the Islanders’ top defenders. Especially since…
Leddy still made Islanders history
And he did so thanks to his second goal which he scored on a penalty shot.
That is a big moment for the Islanders because it marked the first time in Islanders’ franchise history that a defender scored on a penalty shot. Here is a look at the play.
Entering play on Friday Leddy had scored just five goals in his past 98 games dating back to the start of the 2018-19 season (including playoffs). He scored two in five minutes of game-time on Friday, then nearly added a third.
One of the Tkachuk brothers was making people mad again
Usually it is Matthew causing trouble out in Calgary, but on this night it was Brady getting into it with Islanders forward Casey Cizikas.
He was excellent in the Islanders’ net by stopping 30 of 32 shots he faced. The only Senator that seemed to give him an issue was forward Tyler Ennis, who not only scored both of the Senators’ goals, but also started a little bit of a melee late in the game when he poked his stick into Greiss’ glove, infuriating the Islanders goalie.
After starting the season 1-3 the Islanders have been on a roll to climb back toward the top of the Metropolitan Division to not only keep pace with the Washington Capitals, but also try to show their success a year ago was not a fluke.