When the New York Islanders stumbled to a 1-3-0 record to start the 2019-20 season, some began to wonder if last year’s magic might run out. Yeah, about that …
With 5-3 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, the Islanders improved their winning streak to seven consecutive games. They already owned the longest winning streak of this young NHL season when they hit six by beating the Senators in a busy contest, so it’s probably fair to argue that they’re the hottest team in the league right now, as this post’s headline posits.
Overall, the Islanders are now 8-3-0 this season.
Here are some interesting numbers from their hot streak, and the season in general.
Incredible in net
Last season, the Islanders enjoyed arguably the best goaltending in the NHL, or at least enjoyed remarkably elite results from Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss. During this seven-game winning streak, they’ve once again been getting lights-out goaltending, this time from Greiss and Semyon Varlamov.
Varlamov has won four of those wins so far, while Greiss grabbed three, with the pair allowing just 14 goals, or just two per contest during this seven-game run. Their save percentages during the streak are nearly identical: Varlamov is at .935 and Greiss at .934.
Islanders head coach Barry Trotz is the reigning Jack Adams Award winner, and sustaining this dominance for another season would really be impressive.
Looking at the underlying numbers, it feels like it could go either way.
On one hand, the Islanders came into Sunday as a bottom-five team in Corsi, Fenwick, and Scoring chance percentages at five-on-five, via Natural Stat Trick. They’re once again a team that ranks high in PDO (save percentage plus shooting percentage), a category that often points to unsustainable luck.
On the other hand, Trotz can make a strong case that it’s all — to some extent — part of the design. The Islanders ranked as a top-10 team in creating more high-danger chances for than against heading into Sunday, so you could credibly argue that the Islanders are emphasizing quality over quantity.
It’s tough to imagine the Islanders’ goalies being this dominant all season long again, even in Trotz’s system … but who knows? Trotz and the Isles are certainly making it tougher and tougher to wave away their successes.
Barzal and a strong power play
If someone told you the Islanders were on a hot streak, you’d probably guess that they were shutting people down, and that Mathew Barzal was lighting opponents up. That’s basically been the case.
Barzal leads the scoring during that seven-game winning streak, collecting nine of his season’s 11 points. You might claim that the Islanders go as Barzal goes, as he only managed an assist in the first four games of the season during that 1-3-0 start, and now he’s back to being explosive.
The Islanders should be as happy about finding answers beyond the obvious as they are about Barzal continuing to be a star. Devon Toews continues to show signs that he was a diamond in the rough; it feels strange to say that considering his hockey-famous last name, but he’s become a steal for the Isles.
The Isles have also manufactured a pretty good power play so far. Interestingly, that unit’s been more successful percentage-wise overall this season (27.8 percent over 11 games) than during the streak (22.2). Either way, it’s worth noting that the Islanders have basically just been breaking even on special teams so far, so they’re not just living off of a power play or penalty kill that’s simply out of this world.
As with any team on a hot or cold streak, it’s dangerous to read into things too much. That said, Islanders fans and observers, feel free to share your thoughts: do you expect more good thing to come during this season?
I’d argue that the table is set for a short-term feast, at least, with five of their next six games at home.
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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.