Josh Bailey

Stunning numbers: Islanders’ 10-game winning streak edition

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During the 2019-20 NHL season we will take an occasional look at some stunning numbers from around the league. Today we take a look at some stunning numbers on the New York Islanders’ 10-game winning streak.

No one can stay ahead of them. Here is a weird one. During the current streak the Islanders have spent just 95 minutes trailing on the scoreboard, by far the lowest total in the NHL over that stretch (the next closest team is Boston, having spent 120 minutes playing from behind since Oct. 12). That is kind of what you might expect from a team that has won 10 games in a row, always playing with the lead. So what’s wild about that? They have given up the first goal in six of the 10 games, including their most recent win on Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators. They have fallen behind early more often than not and then immediately erased the deficit before locking down the rest of the game.

Everybody is contributing to the offense. They have scored 34 goals during the 10 games, one of their best offensive stretches over the past two years, and it is a total team-wide contribution. They have received at least one goal from 15 different players, at least two goals from seven different players, and at least four goals from four different players (Mathew Barzal, Derick Brassard, Josh Bailey, and Anders Lee).

Nine different players have been credited with a game-winning goal.

They are not getting the benefit of any power play time. Almost all of that offense has been generated during 5-on-5 play with only three of those 34 goals coming on the power play. And it’s not necessarily because the power play has struggled. It’s because they are not getting any power plays. At all. They have been on the power play just 15 times over the past 10 games (for a total of 24 minutes) which is by far the lowest total in the league during that stretch.

The fewest power play opportunities per game since Oct. 12:

  • Florida Panthers: 2.6 per game
  • Tampa Bay Lightning: 2.6 per game
  • Anaheim Ducks: 2.6 per game
  • Edmonton Oilers: 2.5 per game
  • Pittsburgh Penguins: 2.3 per game
  • New York Islanders: 1.5 per game

The penalty kill has been nearly perfect. While they are not getting the benefit of many power plays, they have only been shorthanded 30 times, allowing just one goal and actually scoring a shorthanded goal. Their penalty kill goal differential is, quite literally, 0 over the past 10 games.

The goalies have been identical. How identical? Check out the numbers during the streak.

  • Thomas Greiss: Five games played, 154 shots against, 145 saves, .942 save percentage, 5-0-0 record
  • Semyon Varlamov: Five games played, 151 shots against, 143 saves, .947 save percentage, 5-0-0 record

You are going to win a lot of games when you get that from two different goalies.

About the shot attempts against. Islanders fans are probably sick of hearing this, but one of the biggest reasons people are always waiting for the bottom to fall out on this team is the simple fact they give up a lot of shot attempts and don’t generate a lot of their own. This is usually bad and there is plenty of evidence to back that up. Last year only two of the bottom-11 teams in the league in shot attempt differential made the playoffs. The year before only three of the bottom 12 teams made it. The year before that only two of the bottom-10 made it. Those teams generally don’t do well, and the ones that do always seem to think they are the ones that stumbled upon the key to “keeping pucks to the outside.” Then almost all of them regress the following year and end up missing the playoffs. The more time you spend defending, the more chances you give up, the more goals you give up. It’s not hard to figure that out.

The Islanders are doing it again, and especially during this streak.

Over the past 10 games they have been one of the league’s worst teams at allowing shot attempts, which seems bad. The thing is, they have been one of the rare teams that might actually be doing a good job of limiting chances. While they give up a lot of attempts, they don’t allow many to actually get to the net. They have also been one of the best teams at limiting high-danger chances over the past 10 games (only 9.38 per game, eighth lowest in the league).

(All data via Natural Stat Trick)

Winning streaks like this usually mean playoffs. And by usually, I mean every time with only two exceptions. The 2016-17 Philadelphia Flyers and 2018-19 Buffalo Sabres are the only teams in NHL history to have a winning streak of at least 10 games during a season and actually miss the playoffs. So you have to like that if you are an Islanders fan.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Islanders’ winning streak reaches 10 games

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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.

Their next three games are all at home.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Lee’s lead-by-example captaincy garners results for Islanders

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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.

[RELATED: In-depth look at Isles’ winning streak | Isles on the rise in Power Rankings]

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.

“We play for each other, it’s been a lot of fun,” said Derick Brassard.

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 phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Crosby leaves preseason finale with apparent foot injury

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PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby left the Pittsburgh Penguins’ preseason finale against Buffalo in the first period Saturday after taking a shot off his skate.

Hit by a shot from Sabres defenseman Marco Scandella, Crosby played on 6:42 before leaving. Pittsburgh forward Bryan Rust left the game after he was hit in the hand in the third period.

”They both got hit with shots,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. ”They are being evaluated now. We will probably have more definitive answers tomorrow morning.”

The Sabres won the game 3-2 in a shootout, with Casey Mittelstadt scoring in the sixth round.

Tage Thompson also scored for Buffalo in the shootout. Thompson’s goal in the second round drew Buffalo even, after Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang opened the round by scoring on a wrist shot. Letang was the only Penguin to score in the shootout.

Buffalo’s Linus Ullmark made 34 saves, and Marco Scandella and Zemgus Girgensons scored for the Sabres. Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust scored for the Penguins, and Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The two teams will open the regular season Thursday in Buffalo.

Islanders look to build on success in Year 2 under Trotz

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NEW YORK — After the New York Islanders were swept in the second round of the playoffs, they went into the offseason uncertain how the team would look when it returned this month.

Several players were headed for free agency and there were some big names available.

Ultimately, the Islanders re-signed nearly all their own players and return with the core intact for a second season under coach Barry Trotz and president and general manager Lou Lamoriello.

”Lou did a good job bringing everyone back,” said forward Jordan Eberle, one of the returning free agents. ”Now it’s just a matter of us putting in the work and getting the job done.”

Captain Anders Lee and Brock Nelson were also unrestricted free agents that re-signed.

The Islanders were one of the surprise teams last season when they finished second in the Metropolitan Division, then swept Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs before getting ousted by Carolina. It marked the second time in four years New York reached the second round after a 23-year stretch in which it either missed the playoffs or didn’t advance past the opening round.

Now, the Islanders are hoping to build off the foundation set in the first year under Trotz.

”That familiarity is nice to have,” forward Josh Bailey said. ”A lot of our group understands what’s expected of us. Hopefully kick off where we finished last year, have a good start.”

A year ago, the Islanders were predicted by many experts to miss the playoffs for the ninth time in 12 seasons, especially after losing star center John Tavares in free agency. However, the team took advantage of timely goals and scoring chances created by Trotz’s defense-oriented system.

Despite that success, the Islanders have no shortage of naysayers expecting them to regress.

”At the end of the day, we really like the group we got in here,” center Mathew Barzal said. ”We got chemistry in the locker room, chemistry on the ice, we got a good (penalty-kill) and we got a good staff. They’re going to give us a good game plan, we just got to execute it.”

The one major change was in goal with Semyon Varlamov signed to replace Vezina Trophy finalist Robin Lehner, who had combined with Thomas Greiss to win the William Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the NHL. It also gives Greiss, entering the final year of his contract, his third goalie partner in three seasons.

Greiss and Lehner shared a near-even split of games during the regular season, though Lehner started all eight playoff games. Trotz has indicated he will use the same approach during this season.

”I think I’ll let it play out, same premise as last year,” he said. ”We’re in the winning business, so whoever is doing the job we’ll try to do that. It’s getting harder and harder for a true No. 1 to play in a 70-games-per-year type of thing.”

WHO’S HERE: G Semyon Varlamov, F Derick Brassard.

WHO’S NOT: G Robin Lehner, F Valtteri Filppula.

KEY PLAYERS: The strong team-defense approach was backed by the stellar play of Lehner and Greiss last season. The Islanders will need to replicate that success with Varlamov and Greiss between the pipes. Varlamov has been primarily a starter over his 11-year career, but last season was 20-19-9 while appearing in 49 games – his second-lowest total over the previous six years. Eberle came on strong down the stretch with five goals and an assist in the last seven regular season games, and then had four goals and five assists in the eight playoff games. Nelson thrived in Trotz’s system, getting his first 50-point season (25 goals, 28 assists) in six years in the NHL, and will need to put up similar numbers. Brassard struggled while playing for three teams last season, but he could help improve the Islanders’ struggling power play. Young defenseman Noah Dobson is getting a long look in training camp and would need to displace one of the top seven to crack the opening-day roster. If he doesn’t, under the CBA he can’t play in the AHL this season and would have to go back to juniors.

OUTLOOK: The struggles in the second round against Carolina suggested a need to add a top-line scorer, but they failed to do that. With the team mostly unaltered and still motivated to improve, there’s no reason to expect a regression. The Islanders won’t sneak up on any teams this season, but they still have a championship-winning coaching staff and their defense creates scoring chances.

PREDICTION: The Islanders led the Metropolitan Division for a big chuck of the middle of the season before finishing second at 48-27-7 – a 13-win improvement over the previous year – and 103 points. If Varlamov can return to his previous form under the tutelage of goaltending guru Mitch Korn, the Islanders should be able to contend for the top of the Metropolitan Division again.