Semyon Varlamov

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Penguins rally from down 3-0 to end Islanders’ streak at 10

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The New York Islanders didn’t end Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins empty-handed, but the Islanders didn’t get the win.

Despite starting the third period with a 3-0 lead, the Islanders couldn’t keep their outstanding winning streak going. It concluded at 10 consecutive wins, as the Penguins scored three times in the third period (over a span of just 7:10) and then clutch Bryan Rust scored the OT-winner, pushing the Penguins to that 4-3 OT victory.

On one hand, it stinks for the Islanders to lose to a divisional rival in the Penguins, even if Isles fans still have the recent trash-talking point of that first-round sweep. A dazzling Matt Murray save showed how close the Islanders were to making it go to 11.

On the other hand, the Islanders managed to draw a point out of the proceedings, so now they’re 10-0-1 in their last 11 games. If there’s bitterness in seeing it all end beyond regulation – one can almost hear the “they’re still undefeated at real hockey” gripes – three of the Islanders’ first four wins during the streak happened beyond regulation (two in OT, one in a shootout).

It would likely be unfair to put too much blame on Semyon Varlamov for this loss. While the Penguins punctured him late in the game, maybe there was an element of it being a matter of time until Pittsburgh broke through, as they generated a 39-23 shots on goal advantage, and had more SOG in each period.

The Islanders have often controlled quality (high-danger chances) while giving up quantity (shot volume) during that 10-game streak, but the Penguins applied a lot of pressure, taking an 11-6 high-danger chance advantage at 5-on-5, according to Natural Stat Trick.

So …  it has to sting for Barry Trotz to see his defensive system yield a loss after the Islanders built a 3-0 lead, but when the Islanders zoom out, they might see some silver lining.

They also get a chance to avenge this loss. The Islanders will have a home-and-home series (at Pittsburgh on Nov. 19, home on Nov. 21) to get back at the Penguins for ending this historic streak.

If you want to look back at this run, check out PHT’s recent posts on the matter.

MORE ISLANDERS STREAK:
• Stunning numbers from their 10-game streak
• Anders Lee … leads.
• What was driving the streak when it was at seven wins.
Also: Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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 lock down Sabres for ninth straight win

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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.

MORE:
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

In-depth look at Islanders’ seven-game winning streak

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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.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Namestnikov’s revenge game; Crosby keeps dominating

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Three Stars

1. Vladislav Namestnikov, Ottawa Senators. Two years ago Namestnikov was skating on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s top line alongside Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. After boosting his value, he was then used as a trade chip for the team to land defender Ryan McDonagh from the New York Rangers before the 2017-18 trade deadline. After a mostly disappointing stay on Broadway, he was traded to Ottawa this past week for another fresh start. So far, so good, and it came at the Lightning’s expense. Namestnikov scored two goals — including the game-winner — for the Senators on Saturday to help his new team get its first win of the season. On paper, this game should have been a mismatch, but the Senators drastically outplayed the Lightning in what was probably the biggest surprise of the day.

2. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers. After scoring 50 goals and 100 points a year ago and finishing in the top-four of the league in both categories, Draisaitl is picking up where he left and is once again looking like a superstar. He finished with three points on Saturday afternoon — including two goals — to help the Oilers improve to 5-0 on the season. He and Connor McDavid (two more points on Saturday) are carrying the offense again.

3. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. With the Penguins’ forward lineup dealing with a ton of injuries they are going to need their captain and his line to dominate for them to have a chance to win. Right now, they are dominating. Crosby was great once again on Saturday night, picking up two more points in a 7-4 win over the Minnesota Wild, including a highlight reel backhand goal off the rush. He has recorded at least one point in every game this season and already has eight in the Penguins’ first five games. The Penguins also received some surprising production from their recent call-ups with Adam Johnson and Sam Lafferty both recording their first NHL goals.

Other notable performances on Saturday

  • Brendan Gallagher finished with three points for the Montreal Canadiens as they handed the St. Louis Blues their first regulation loss of the season.
  • Rookie goalie Ilya Samsonov was amazing again for the Washington Capitals as they defeated the Dallas Stars. In his first two NHL starts Samsonov has allowed a total of two goals. He is the future of the position in The District.
  • Ilya Kovalchuk continued his strong start with another goal in the Kings’ 7-4 win over the Nashville Predators.
  • The Winnipeg Jets overcame an early 2-0 deficit against the Chicago Blackhawks to win in overtime on Mark Scheifele‘s second goal of the season. The Blackhawks remain winless.
  • Mark Stone, Will Carrier, and Max Pacioretty all had two points for the Vegas Golden Knights in their big 6-2 win over the Calgary Flames.
  • Semyon Varlamov picked up his first win as a member of the New York Islanders by stopping all three shootout shots against the Florida Panthers. He also made 35 saves through regulation and overtime.
  • Tanner Pearson scored a goal in regulation and then added the game-winning goal in the shootout for the Vancouver Canucks in their win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
  • The Boston Bruins’ top line was once again dominant as Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron both scored goals in a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils to keep them winless. Tuukka Rask was also brilliant again and has stopped 90 of the first 94 shots he has faced this season.

Highlights of the Night

It may have come in a losing effort but Kaapo Kakko‘s first NHL goal for the New York Rangers was a beautiful play.

Jacob De La Rose had one of the few highlights of the night for the Detroit Red Wings with this nice looking goal.

The Columbus Blue Jackets handed the Carolina Hurricanes their first loss of the season thanks to this great effort from Pierre-Luc Dubois.

The Colorado Avalanche improved to 4-0-0 on the season and it was new addition Andre Burakovsky scoring the game-winning goal for the second game in a row.

Blooper of the Night

There is really no other choice here, it has to be Jimmy Howard‘s gamble in Detroit that turned into a rather easy goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Rest in Peace

Factoids

  • The Capitals’ win against the Stars was their first regulation win in Dallas since the 1995 season. [NHL PR]
  • Phil Kessel played in his 1,000th NHL game on Saturday night, making him the third youngest active player to play in 1,000 games. [NHL PR]
  • Penguins goalie Matt Murray recorded his 100th career win on Saturday night, making him just the eight goalie since the 1966-67 season record 100 wins in 166 games or less. [NHL PR]
  • The Los Angeles Kings set a franchise record for fasted three goals, scoring three goals in 30 seconds during their win over the Nashville Predators. [NHL PR]
  • The Oilers are the first team in NHL history to come-from-behind to win each of their first five games of the season. [NHL PR]

Scores
Edmonton Oilers 4, New York Rangers 1
Ottawa Senators 4, Tampa Bay Lightning 2
Los Angeles Kings 7, Nashville Predators 4
Winnipeg Jets 3, Chicago Blackhawks 2 (OT)
Boston Bruins 3, New Jersey Devils 0
Montreal Canadiens 6, St. Louis Blues 3
Toronto Maple Leafs 5, Detroit Red Wings 2
New York Islanders 3, Florida Panthers 2 (SO)
Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Carolina Hurricanes 2
Washington Capitals 4, Dallas Stars 1
Pittsburgh Penguins 7, Minnesota Wild 4
Colorado Avalanche 3, Arizona Coyotes 2 (OT)
Vegas Golden Knights 6, Calgary Flames 2
Vancouver Canucks 3, Philadelphia Flyers 2 (SO)

MORE:
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.