Three lessons the New York Jets can learn from their Islander friends

The New York Jets have been staples of the Islanders’ postseason tour on Long Island. Perhaps they can learn a thing or two along the way.

In following the New York Islanders’ run to the Stanley Cup Final, the New York Jets have traded in green and white for blue and orange. They’ve engaged in (Bud) light debauchery and have gone viral in the process as the Islanders are halfway through their quest for a fifth Stanley Cup hoist.

The next step of the journey begins on Sunday afternoon when the Islanders battle the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena (3 p.m. ET, NBC). Nassau Coliseum will host the third, fourth, and (if necessary) sixth games of the series, and it’s very likely that members of the Jets will attempt to take their usual seats for those contests. 

Is it possible that, in their fun, they might actually learn a thing or two along the way?

Class is in session, courtesy of ESM…

Have Depth Stars

On Long Island: Save for Mathew Barzal (appearances in the last two exhibitions), the Islanders are not a team of perennial All-Stars. John Tavares’ absconding for Toronto was supposed to be their downfall, but they’ve responded with playoff series victories in three consecutive seasons while the Maple Leafs have been relegated to opening round exits.

The Islanders are a team that has gotten by with a group of gritty, skilled players whose union has worked wonders. Nothing showcases their depth and consistency better than the grouping of Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and Matt Martin, a trio of bottom-six forward staples since 2014. Nicknamed the “Identity Line”, NYI head coach Barry Trotz says that the group sets the tone for what they’re trying to accomplish on the ice.

“They give you impact. When they are playing the right way, they give you a little of that bite that you want,” Trotz said after a dominant January 2019 over Tampa, per Cory Wright of NewYorkIslanders.com. “They give you sort of that determination and speed on the puck and sort of an Islander identity. If there’s a line that’s sort of an identity line, well that’s the best way to describe them better than a fourth line because they give us an identity.”

In Florham Park: The Jets tried to go the big-spending route over the last few seasons, but marquee signings have not panned out. Right now, they’re actively paying Le’Veon Bell and Trumaine Johnson to keep their distance, for example.

Blessed with one of the highest offseason budgets in the NFL, it would’ve been easy for the Jets to fall to temptation and spend big money on a blockbuster talent (i.e. J.J. Watt). But once it became clear that the big names wanted to move on to contenders, the Jets bolstered their depth so more parts of the depth chart provide production and security.

This offseason has still seen some big contracts bestowed…Carl Lawson and Corey Davis are a combined $26 million cap hit…but many others signings have been about providing depth. They’re not the flashiest arrivals by any stretch, not the type of names that one can put on a parking lot light pole’s banner, but they’re the type of depth options the Jets needed at this point in time.

Jarrad Davis is a redemption-seeking first-round pick whose success in the 4-3 sets of the Florida Gators could come up big. At receiver, Davis is one of several names with the potential to become a No. 1 target. Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder return from last year’s team, while Elijah Moore was drafted in the second round. Uncertainty lingers at tight end and in the secondary, but the Jets’ thriftiness could pay big dividends, as undrafted free agents Kenny Yeboah and Isaiah Dunn could come up big.

Make Sure Special Teams are Special

On Long Island: Since Trotz took over in 2018, the Islanders have improved by leaps and bounds in almost every major statistical category with the exception of their power play. New York ranked 20th in the final regulars season rankings with a man advantage, though they were the only team in the NHL that did not allow any shorthanded goals.

The Islanders, however, rose to the occasion on the penalty kill, coming home sixth in the category over the regular season. Doing it in the postseason has been a work in progress…they’ve killed off only 61.5 percent of their infractions…but the power play came to life in spectacular fashion in Monday’s Game 5 showdown in Boston. Facing a Bruins squad that led the league with an 86 percent kill rate during the regular season, the Islanders scored three power play goals that forever changed the course of the series. Barzal scored on a chance in the first period, while Kyle Palmieri and Jordan Eberle earned extra-man tallies in the second.

The power play success not only provided the difference in the goal category but more or less shifted the entire course of the game. Taking advantage of the opportunities allowed the Islanders to not only withstand a late Boston rush, but they were able to earn a momentum-shifting victory on a night where they were outshot 44-19.

In Florham Park: There’s major hope for the Jets entering the 2021 season, even if reaching the playoff is still a tall task for the time being. But there’s no doubt that they’re still developing, still a work in progress, particularly on an offensive end that’s debuting a new quarterback and receiving corps. Thus, special teams must be addressed.

Confidence for a developing offense can be built by getting points on as many drives that end in opposing territory as possible. That comes through reliable field goal kicking, an area where the Jets have fallen woefully short since Jason Myers left for Seattle. Chris Naggar has been brought in to compete with incumbent Sam Ficken for that role. General manager Joe Douglas has shown that he’s not afraid to use valuable assets to address special teams. He used the last pick of his first draft to pick up punter Braden Mann and has tried to fill in the Jets’ Andre Roberts-sized void at returned through additions in the 2021 draft (i.e. Michael Carter).

Perhaps the most telling sign of Jets management’s willingness to bolster the special unit came through the retaining of coordinator Brant Boyer, who has now survived the purges of both Todd Bowles and Adam Gase’s doomed staffs.

It All Starts at the Head

On Long Island: Again, no one expected the Islanders to be in his position three years ago. This, after all, was a team that just lost the face of its franchise, perhaps the one thing it had going for it since the immortal early 1980s.

The hire of Trotz in 2018, however, may go down as one of the most fateful moves in franchise history.

Trotz had already developed a reputation as a strong nurterer of young talent and helping woebegone franchises find their path. He put the Nashville Predators on the NHL map as the franchise’s original head coach (serving 16 seasons at the helm after their 1998 inception). He then moved on to Washington, where he helped the Capitals removed the playoff monkey from their backs. Only under Trotz has Alex Ovechkin been able to reach hockey Nirvana in the Stanley Cup Final.

Once Trotz was voted out of Capitol Hill due to a contract dispute, the Islanders pounced and have been reaping in the benefits ever since. Under Trotz, the Islanders have won playoff rounds in three consecutive seasons for the first time since their quartet of Cup hoists (1980-83). Trotz’s status as a players’ coach that is nonetheless willing to hold his guys accountable has been a delightful contrast to the recent slew of also-rans. Doug Weight’s animated style, for example, was refreshing when he first took the reins but it quickly ran its course.

Trotz credits his success to looking at his status as a head coach as not a position of superiority, but one that leads to a partnership with his players.

“I look at coaching, my time, as I’m in a partnership with the players,” Trotz told Mollie Walker of the New York Post in March. “We’re in a partnership to win hockey games. The other partnership is to make you the best version of yourself, whatever that version is.”

In Florham Park: There’s no doubt that, despite the nine-win ledger, that the Jets had some talent on their roster over the last two seasons, better known as the Adam Gase era. Look no further than the names the Jets gave up on before him: Robby Anderson, Avery Williamson, Le’Veon Bell, and Steve McLendon accounted for only part of the list. But help has arrived in the form of Robert Saleh,  whose hiring has been universally praised.

The difference between the arrivals of Saleh and Gase are best contrasted by player reaction to the news. While Gase’s landing was met with mostly indifference…and whatever honeymoon there was quickly ended when he won a power struggle against Mike Maccagnan…Saleh’s arrival has been praised by players both domestically and abroad. It’s created an energy field in Florham Park not seen since, arguably, the Rex Ryan days.

“You have to give him an unusual amount of credit, and I don’t think he’s getting enough credit not only here but in the league, in general,” former Saleh pupil Richard Sherman said of his potential as a head coach in December, per the Associated Press. “He’s able to rally men. He’s a leader of men and that goes a long way.”

As the Gase era showcased all too well, talent means nothing when the right man isn’t in charge. Though vital downs have yet to be played, it’s safe to say the Jets feel that they have found the perfect curator and developer in Saleh.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The Islanders’ fourth line coming out of it slumber at the perfect time

It shouldn’t come as a coincidence that this little resurgence the Islanders now have had their last four games have come with their fourth line re-discovering their game.

The threesome of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck was the catalyst behind the team’s comeback win on Saturday against the Penguins, and were the same last night in the Isles’ crucial 2-0 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The victory made it points in four straight games (2-0-2) for the Isles and launched them back into a playoff spot following a tough five-game skid that left them in last place in the East Division at the end of last week.

I felt it was going to be one of the grinding lines that was going to get a goal,” head coach Barry Trotz said to the media after the game last night. “[The Identity Line] had as complete of a game as they’ve had in a while.”

The “Identity Line” coming through in the clutch isn’t something new for the Islanders; they’ve been the best bottom-six line in hockey for a number of years now and were excellent in the playoffs last summer. But the trio’s slow start to this season, along with the Isles’ offensive struggles as a whole, had people questioning whether it was time to finally break them up. That possibility feels like it’s once again off the table as it looks as if all three guys have finally come out of their slumber. And it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.

Over the past two games, Martin, Cizikas and Clutterbuck have combined for seven points. In the physical department they look rejuvenated after the mini-break from last week, allotting for 18 hits.

“The way we’re playing and gelling right now, it’s a good feeling and something that we can build off of and get better at each game,” Cizikas said in the postgame.

When the fourth line is going for the Islanders, it instantly makes them a tougher matchup for the opposition. The Rangers young defense saw that first hand last night on the two goals in a 2:05 span that sealed the Isles the win. And although it’s just two games, there has been a clear difference in the Islanders overall play, especially from an offensive standpoint. They’re being more aggressive and have gotten back to what has made them successful.

They can thank the fourth line finally waking up for attributing to that shift.

With 45 games left this season and that line’s future up in the air — the expansion draft, Cizikas being an unrestricted free agent — the Isles are going to need to get anything and everything from them.

That’s been the case of late and the Islanders have been the beneficiaries of it.

If you think Semyon Varlamov is the only one who loves to play the Rangers, you’d be sadly mistaken. Mathew Barzal has shown over his career he loves to shine brightly against the Blueshirts.

He didn’t have the most productive game last night, but Barzal did notch his 20th point in 15 games against the boys from Broadway last night with a secondary assist on Matt Martin’s third period goal.

The assist also extended his point streak to six games and gave him his team-leading 12th point.

Michael Dal Colle and Oliver Wahlstrom had strong games again despite not finding the scoresheet. Both were battling hard for pucks and making smart plays.

Wahlstrom, who had probably his best game as a pro, tied with Casey Cizikas for the most shots for the Islanders with four.

Matt Martin’s new deal makes him an Islander for life, and that’s exactly the way it needed to be

New York Islanders, Matt Martin

Sometimes loyalty means more than the dollar amount in sports. It doesn’t occur often in today’s landscape, but when it does you know it’s meant for a specific purpose.

Thats the case with Matt Martin and what he means to the Islanders.

Martin is now basically an Islander for life after yesterday’s news that he and the organization came to terms on a four-year contract that will keep him in blue and orange till age 36.

The deal was first reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman in his weekly 31 Thoughts and than later confirmed by The Athletic’s Arthur Staple and The New York Post’s Larry Brooks. The theme behind the deal goes back to the affinity the Isles have for Martin and vice versa.

And while many aren’t to keen on how long the deal goes, it’s hard to argue against why he was brought back.

Martin is the modern day Bobby Nystrom to this generation of Islanders fans. You can’t say that about many of the players that have called Long Island home in the post-dynasty era.

He’s the heart and soul of the franchise; it’s been that way since he first joined the team over a decade ago. He’s a folk hero and been dubbed the “Mayor of Long Island” for how beloved he is around these parts and the work he’s done in the community. More importantly, he’s the standard for the culture that has been helped restored in the franchise as a part of the club’s “Identity Line”, aka the fourth line.

Matt has a lot of the intangibles,” head coach Barry Trotz told reporters yesterday. “The type of player that he is, everyone is well aware of that. He’s a good piece of the culture on the Island.”

In those playoffs Trotz was referring to, Martin accounted for five goals in the Isles’ run to the Eastern Conference finals. Every one of them bigger than the last. But the goals are just the tip of the iceberg. Martin was one of the best players for the team in the postseason period.

“I think you saw in the playoffs how valuable Matt is on our team, from a standpoint of bringing the physical attributes. He’s just a good, reliable pro,” added Trotz.

Martin could have easily cashed in this offseason as a free agent after his big playoff according to his father-in-law Boomer Esiason. Esiason noted that Martin had three or four other clubs who came hard after his services were offering more money than he is receiving from the Isles, $6 million. But with how much the Islanders value him and how much he loves his teammates and wearing the blue and orange, he took less.

Another example of how his loyalty to the Islanders knows no bounds, a quality that is highly-treasured by general manager Lou Lamoriello.

By the time his new deal ends, Martin will have played just a shade under 15 years with the Islanders. The last player to do that has his banner hung in the rafters: Bryan Trottier. Martin probably won’t receive the same honor, but he will most likely be recognized in some way by the franchise. Personally an award in his name would be excellent.

He deserves it for how he’s represented the Islanders throughout his career.

There’s always players that come along who you want to see be with one team for their entire career. Matt Martin is definitely one of them (even with his two-year stint in Toronto).

He is now an Islander for the rest of his career, and that’s exactly how it needs to be.

The Islanders are finally getting some much-deserved spotlight. Last week it was reported they’d only be featured twice on national TV this year.

Well how about seven time now?

MSG’s Eric Hornick tweeted the Isles will be seen an additional five games all over the country. Great stuff.

This coming season could mark the last ride for the Islanders’ Identity Line

New York Islanders

The offseason for the New York Islanders has gone quiet recently. Their last big transaction came a few weeks ago when the team shipped d-man Devon Toews to Colorado.

Soon though, things should pick up again, including the announced signings of free agents Cory Schneider, Andy Greene and Matt Martin.

The latter of those three signees has bigger implications.

Whether it’s a one or two-year deal for Martin, it seems like the end is near for the Islanders’ fourth line, formally known as the “Identity Line”.

As The Athletic’s Arthur Staple pointed out in the first of his three Isles mailbags this week, Casey Cizikas has probably priced himself out for the organization to retain him when he hits the market next season. That in part because of the flat cap and Adam Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier and Ilya Sorokin all needing new deals.

Furthermore is Cal Clutterbuck will have one year left on five-year, $17M deal he signed back in 2016 and will certainly be one of the forwards exposed in the expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken who begin play following this season. Martin will also likely be along with Clutterbuck in that group when he is signed.

The Islanders have been fortunate enough to have a threesome of Martin, Cizikas and Clutterbuck four out of the previous six seasons outside the former’s two-year stint in Toronto from 2016-2018. No one could have foreseen what those three would mean to the franchise when they were first assembled in 2014 by then head coach Jack Capuano.

They became the embodiment of what it meant to wear the Islander crest and also earned the reputation as the league’s most formidable fourth line, which is a title they still hold in many people’s eyes. They’ve even been called the best to ever do it, according to legendary analyst Don Cherry.

Cherry dubbed them “The Best Fourth Line Ever in Hockey” in 2015.

Under head coach Barry Trotz, the line was reborn and is one of the major reasons for the success the Isles have sustained the past two seasons.

We always talk about them as the fourth line, but they are a very useful line for us,” Trotz told the team website a while back. “They give you impact.”

That impact was no more evident than this past postseason. Martin had five goals in 22 games, marking more than he had in the regular season. Cizikas — who suffered an eye injury in the Conference finals versus Tampa — and Clutterbuck played hurt and had clutch moments throughout the team’s run.

“When they are playing the right way, they give you a little of that bite that you want. They give you sort of that determination and speed on the puck and sort of an Islander identity. If there’s a line that’s sort of an identity line, well that’s the best way to describe them better than a fourth line because they give us an identity.”

All good things must come to an end though.

This one might hurt a little extra because of how much Martin, Cizikas and Clutterbuck are respected in the room and how much they make up the very fabric of the team.

The good thing to keep in mind is that the Isles have reinforcements ready to jump in and fill the void that could be left if this is it for the threesome. Otto Koivula and Ross Johnston have been waiting in the wings and could be the ones who do receive the nod.

This coming season will be interesting enough in a number of ways. Late start date, possibly no fans, travel restrictions, and who knows what else.

But for the Islanders, it will be interesting because it could mark the end of one of the most beloved era in recent memory.

The Identity Line.

New York Islanders: Matt Martin reportedly preparing to sign

New York Islanders, Matt Martin

New York Islanders‘ long term enforcer, Matt Martin, is closing in on a contract to return to the Island. Martin is almost like the modern-day Mr. Islander. Every Islander fan loves him and wanted him to re-sign.

Lou Lamoriello is finally getting the deal done. Arthur Staple, longtime Islanders’ reporter, states that as many as 7 teams inquired on Martin last week. There have been reports that Martin took a hometown discount in order to return to the Island. I’ve projected his contract length and cap hit down below.

Length

This will not be a one year deal. It won’t be a one year deal because Ross Johnston won’t ever take his place. Isles fans have to be happy about this, though. Martin was one of the best players on the Islanders during the playoffs.

Martin is also lightyears better than Johnston. Yes, Johnston can hit pretty hard and fight everyone. Martin can actually forecheck effectively, score key goals, move the puck around, and still be a top enforcer in the league. This deal must be at least 2 years long. I wouldn’t be surprised if the deal is for 3 years. He’s a key piece on the Isles, and that needs to be recognized.

Cap Hit

As previously stated, Martin most likely took a hometown discount. This means he isn’t getting paid $3 million a year like his linemates. That doesn’t bother him though, he’d rather play on the Island than anywhere else. He’d take $700k from the Islanders before he takes $5 million from the Rangers. That’s loyalty in it’s purest form, and that’s why the fans love Martin.

No one wanted him to leave the first time, and no one wants to see him leave again. I believe Martin signed for $1.5 million a year. It’s a discount for him, but it gets the Islanders back a key piece in their lineup.

New York Islanders: 3 Stars of the Game 3 Win

Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders have made the Eastern Conference Finals a real series. Game 3 was easily one of the most entertaining games of the 2020 playoffs. The Islanders played their hearts out, and it shows. A mix of desperation and frustration led them to clutch out the win. There were three stars that led the Islanders to victory last night. Their efforts did not go unrecognized, and honestly, I believe three stars are too little to show how good the Isles played last night. But, without further ado, here are the three stars of the night.

Semyon Varlamov

Amazing is almost an insult to how Semyon Varlamov played last night. Varly single handily kept the Islanders’ hopes alive. There were 3 or 4 sequences from the Lightning last night that should’ve been goals, but Varlamov stood on his head. I don’t know what changed for Varlamov from the regular season to the playoffs, but he’s just been fantastic. Even though he did let in 3 goals, there was a possibility it could’ve been 6. The Isles fans are 110% behind their outstanding goalie.

The 4th line

I have to include the entire 4th line here because, oh my god, what a game they played. J.G. Pageau was acting like a goon out there, and he’s a foot shorter than every other player. Not only did Pageau play like an enforcer, but he got an assist on the beautiful Adam Pelech goal and scored the empty-net goal. Don’t forget about the line clearing brawl at the end of the game. Victor Hedman had to save Kucherov from Pageau. Matt Martin continued his hot streak and played amazing defense. Great forechecking as well, as always, and he clocked Barclay Goodrow in the back of the head six times. Sydney Martin has got to be proud of her husband. Also, can’t forget about Cal Clutterbuck sniping Vasilevskiy to open up the scoring. 4th line looked amazing even without Casey Cizikas playing.

The “B” line

When the “B” line gets hot, it’s normally “goodnight Jim Kite.” Josh Bailey had two assists last night as he continues his quest for the Conn Smythe. Anthony Beauvillier scored last night on a beautiful play from Brock Nelson. Not only that, but Beauvillier assisted Nelson’s game-winning goal with a beautiful turn around pass. Brocktober came early Isles fans. Brock Nelson was in prime form last night and would win the game for the Isles. The second line continues to be dangerous.

Honorable Mention

Also, as an honorable mention, what a game for Adam Pelech. Pelech scored his first career playoff goal, so congratulations to him. It was a total snipe, and it got all the Islanders fans excited. Especially the #pelechposse created by Jake Basile (a.k.a. @BathtubJake on Instagram). Pelech was thumping too, a bunch of big hits for the big man. Great game from a shutdown defenseman.

The Islanders’ fourth line continues to live up to its name despite another loss

There’s a reason the New York Islanders are known for having the “best fourth line in hockey”.

They simply cause havoc and can change the dynamic of a game.

It was evident once again last night in the team’s crushing 2-1 loss in game two to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Needing a big-time start, following just an embarrassing effort in game one Monday night, Islanders’ head coach Barry Trotz deployed the Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck (a game-time decision) trio early in the game. And what did they do, they came through as advertised.

Martin, who had just five goals the entire regular season, got the Islanders an early lead when he chipped one over Andrei Vasilevskiy’s shoulder off a great feed from Nick Leddy.

That goal marked Martin’s fifth goal of the postseason.

From there, that entire line was off and running. They were the Islanders’ best line by a mile last night. That trio combined for five shots, 18 hits, and one fight when Martin dropped the gloves with Bolts d-man Luke Schenn.

What we witnessed from that trio in the loss shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone whose been around the Islanders for a long time now.  Ever since that “Identity Line” as Trotz likes to refer to them as first became a thing, they’ve been one of the more prominent threesomes people identify the Isles with. They’ve been lauded for how cohesive a unit they are and because they play the game how it’s supposed to be played — hard-nosed, physical, balls-to-the-wall.

In this postseason run, the threesome has continued to live up to that billing. Whenever the Isles have needed a big moment, it’s been those guys who have stepped up. Martin — as previously mentioned — has scored huge goals; so has Clutterbuck. Cizikas, despite not scoring, has made his impact on games with his relentless motor and hows he’s thrown his body around.

“We always talk about them as the fourth line, but they are a very useful line for us,” Trotz has said about the trio in the past. “They give you impact. When they are playing the right way, they give you a little of that bite that you want. They give you sort of that determination and speed on the puck and sort of an Islander identity,” If there’s a line that’s sort of an identity line, well that’s the best way to describe them better than a fourth line because they give us an identity.”

The fourth line is the engine which makes the Islanders go. Before the bubble, the team struggled mightily at times during the regular season as a result of the line not being totally together. A part of that had to do with Cizikas, Martin and Clutterbuck being sidelined at various times of the year.

Now that they are healthy though, you see why have earned their reputation from around the league. And the Isles are going to need them to keep going pedal to the metal if they want to get back in this series.

After last night, they are now down 2-0. Game three is tomorrow night, and the hope is they can come away with a victory and make this a brand new series. One way they can do that is the fourth line just doing exactly what they did last night and all postseason.

Being the best and making the opponent’s lives miserable.

New York Islanders: The Evolution of Matt Martin

New York Islanders, Matt Martin

The New York Islanders drafted Matt Martin in the 5th round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, Matt Martin has been the staple/identity of Islanders’ hockey. Hard-hitting, physical forechecking, and a lot of chirping. Martin has grown as a player since being drafted. He went from a head-hunting enforcer to a “get in front of the net” grinder. Not only has this change impacted the Islanders positively, but also added years to his career.

Young Matt Martin played a lot like Ross Johnston does. Both of them are big bodies who stuck up for their best players. For Martin, it was John Tavares, for Johnston, it is Mat Barzal. Don’t get me wrong, Martin is still an enforcer, but he’s an offensive enforcer.

Barry Trotz has made Martin an offensive threat for the first time in his whole career. Matt Martin currently has four playoff goals, and all of them were “clutch” goals. Having a 4th liner who can score along with creating opportunities through the forecheck is huge. He can still deliver the big hits too, but not as frequent. My only criticism is that he takes bad penalties at bad times. Too many stick infractions in the closing minutes of the third. Other than that, Martin is a great player.

Sadly, Matt Martin’s contract is over with the Islanders after the season ends. Since the Islanders have to sign Mat Barzal, Devon Toews, and Ryan Pulock, the chance that Martin gets resigned is very slim. I would keep Martin over Johnston, though.

There’s no reason to break up that 4th line chemistry just because there’s a younger version of young Matt Martin. Martin should command $2-$2.5 million in free agency, close to Johnston’s contract. I’m not saying get rid of Johnston for Martin, but if that’s how it has to happen, that’s how it must happen. The 4th line is crucial to the Islanders’ success, it’s the entire identity of who the Islanders are. The Islanders must keep Martin somehow.

New York Islanders: Should Ross Johnston Play in Game 2?

ross johnston, New York Islanders

The identity of the New York Islanders is a tough, physical, defensive team. Who’s the first player that comes to your mind that’s on the Islanders who’s tough, physical, and defensive? Most people would say Cal Clutterbuck, or Casey Cizikas, possibly even Matt Martin.

Then there are the few people who say, Ross Johnston. Ross Johnston is a goon. He’s the enforcer, the head hunter, the brawler. This series vs. the Capitals is a brawler series. I mean, the Capitals have Tom Wilson, Radko Gudas, and Garnet Hathaway.

Many fans are calling for Ross Johnston to come in and replace Leo Komarov on the 3rd line so that the Islanders can fire back. Is this a smart move for the Islanders, though?

Why Ross Johnston Shouldn’t Start

As previously stated, Ross Johnston is a goon. You cannot go into playoff hockey with undisciplined players. Islanders fans saw their team take seven penalties in game one alone. The Islanders have a bad penalty kill, and the Capitals have Alex Ovechkin. Why risk losing a game because you want your goon to hurt Tom Wilson.

The playoffs are for teams who can win the Stanley Cup, not for teams who would rather fight other players. Also, what else does Johnston offer for this team? Leo Komarov at least can play on the penalty kill. Tom Kuhnhackl is great on the forecheck. Andrew Ladd offers veteran leadership and a winning mentality. Michael Dal Colle exists, I guess. Johnston just delivers hits. There’s no reason for Johnston to play unless he can show that he can bring more to this team, such as forechecking or good skating.

Conclusion

I don’t believe there’s a reason for Johnston to play for the rest of the playoffs. The Islanders are here to win the cup, not to injure other players.

New York Islanders: 3 Key Players to Yesterday’s Win

Ryan Pulock, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders beat the Florida Panthers yesterday with a score of 4-2 and take a 2-0 lead in the best of 5 series. This is a monumental win for the Islanders teams are 55-1 when leading 2-0 in a best of 5 series. Three key players helped the Islanders put extreme pressure on the Panthers.

Jordan Eberle

If you score two goals in one game, there’s a 95% chance you’re a top 3 star in the game. Jordan Eberle, who was invisible in game 1, showed up in the ladder half of game 2. Eberle’s first goal was an absolute beauty. First, he waited on his forehand and moved the defenseman. This move also moved Sergei Bobvrosky right out of his net, and Eberle being the goal scorer he is, rips it short side to put the Isles up 3-2. Eberle’s second goal was nothing special, just in the right place at the right time. The Islanders need playoff Eberle to shine if they want to make a deep run.

Ryan Pulock

Ryan Pulock possesses the hardest slapshot in the NHL. Let me reiterate, Ryan Pulock possesses the hardest slapshot in the NHL. I’ve seen Pulock injury goalies after he shoots from 50 feet away. Pulock has a powerful slapshot, but he doesn’t have the accuracy to score often. Despite this, Islanders fans beg Pulock to take the slapshot on the powerplay. This time, Pulock listened to the fans, and the shot went five-hole. Other than the goal, Pulock played solid defense the entire game. Never giving up position, and always filling his lanes.

The 4th Line

Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin make up the best 4th line in the league. This line never tries to get too fancy. They chip and chase, hit whenever they can, and keep a good forecheck/neutral zone presence. When the 4th line is playing well, the Islanders normally win. The Islanders have a way of making a two-goal lead seem like a seven-goal lead, and it starts with this line. Amazing forechecking all game, and Matty Martin scored today as well.

Honorable Mention

Tom Kuhnhackl played another great game today. Amazing forechecking, good defensive presence, hard checking, and great awareness. He even had the pass of the game, through the legs into a Matty Martin goal.

Conclusion

The Islanders play game three tomorrow at noon. This could either be the sweep the fans are clamoring for, or, the first win for the Panthers. Head coach Barry Trotz will give his players two options. You can either end the series now or let the Panthers climb back into it.