New York Islanders: 3 Keys to Winning Game 2

New York Islanders, Cal Clutterbuck

Winning tonight’s game is crucial for the New York Islanders. After suffering an embarrassing 8-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Islanders must find a way to win game 2. This Tampa team is nothing to laugh at. They aren’t the same team that got swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in round 1. But, they still have the same head coach. It’s still the same Tampa system, but without Steven Stamkos. The offense runs the same, point shots from Hedman and rushes by Kucherov and Point. The Islanders must win tonight, and they must follow these three keys to aid them.

Avoid Taking Penalties

This Islanders team cannot kill penalties the way they used to, and they also can’t get into a shootout with Tampa. The only way to avoid power-play goals is to avoid taking penalties. This is not the Philidelphia Flyers who couldn’t even gain the blue line. This is Tampa Bay, who could score from virtually anywhere. The Islanders need to stay out of the box, especially if it’s a bad penalty like a stick infraction. The only reason any Islander should take a penalty is to stop a 1v1.

Fewer Turnovers

The Islanders turned the puck over way too many times on Monday night. For a team that preaches about clean neutral zone play, there was nothing clean about game 1—too many turnovers in the neutral zone and in the defensive zone. The Islanders need to stop going behind the net with passes and start breaking it out up the boards. Also, there were too many turnovers in the offensive zone. You can’t score if you don’t shoot, and you can’t shoot if you don’t have the puck.

Pushing Players out of the Crease

Whether it be Semyon Varlamov or Thomas Greiss or even Braden Holtby, it’s very hard to stop a puck that you can’t see. The Islanders cannot allow Victor Hedman to take a slapshot from the blue line when there are four guys in front of the net. As I’ve said many times, the Islanders need to use their bodies to move the screens. It’s too hard to on the goalies, and it can possibly cost the Isles the game and the series.

Conclusion

Tonight is a big game for both teams tonight. The Isles need to level it at one if they want to keep their Stanley Cup chances alive.

New York Islanders: Lineup Changes for Game 2

New York Islanders

The New York Islanders got whipped last night against the Lightning. You can blame this on lack of rest, or just being out talented. There’s no room for mistakes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Changes must be made to the lineup. The Islanders need to make several changes and take game 2. Also, I will not be tackling the decision at the goalie spot just because it could be either-or.

Ross Johnston Out

I am not the biggest Ross Johnston fan, and it’s well documented. I mean, JG Pageau does the same thing, and he’s like 5 inches smaller and 60 pounds lighter. Ross Johnston doesn’t have the speed to help out the defense if they get caught on a 3v2. Johnston doesn’t play on the power-play kill. Johnston isn’t making momentum-swinging hits or fights happen. Either Tom Kuhnhackl or Michael Dal Colle should take Johnston’s spot. Kuhnhackl provides a ton of offense and forechecks with the best of them. While Dal Colle is solid in the neutral zone and is relatively fresh. The Islanders haven’t allowed a goal in the Playoffs when Dal Colle plays. One of those two must take Johnston’s spot.

Leo Komarov In

Leo Komarov is a player most teams don’t think they need, but in reality, they need him. Komarov is a grinder and plays on the power-play kill, which the Islanders need help on. The Islanders can’t allow Victor Hedman to score three power-play goals a game. Komarov will lay it all out on the line if it means he can raise that Stanley Cup. Komarov also creates offense and gets his linemates in a good position to score.

Andy Greene gets Fewer Minutes

Andy Greene has been a very inconsistent player for the Isles during the playoffs. One game, he scores from the point, and poke checks everything. Other games, he takes multiple penalties and provides too many opportunities for the other team. I don’t believe that Johnny Boychuk or Noah Dobson should take his spot, but Greene needs to earn his 17 minutes a night. The Isles are deep in the playoffs, there’s no room for error.

New York Islanders: Matchup Analysis with Tampa

New York Islanders, Johnny Boychuk

The New York Islanders are in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 27 years. That means for Islander fans who are between the ages of 1-27, this is the most exciting moment of your lives. It’s by far the best team they’ve put on the ice since the dynasty. Also, this team has the best coach the NHL has seen since the dynasty. I mean, if you match up this year’s team and the dynasty’s team, there’s a lot of parallels. But, the Islanders aren’t playing against the dynasty teams; they’re playing Tampa Bay. The Tampa Bay Lightning is an up and down team for sure. Many years with deep runs, early exits after being the best team in the regular season, and one year ended with them just missing out on glory. How well do the Islanders match up with Tampa?

Forwards

I believe that Tampa is more talented on the forward side of the spectrum. Tampa has forwards like Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Yianni Gourde. This Tampa forward group is insanely gifted and can put up a bunch of points, but are they better together than the Islanders?

Yes, I’m talking about chemistry, something that every team needs to win. The Islanders’ second and fourth lines have the best chemistry I’ve ever seen. Tampa is currently missing their best centerman, Steven Stamkos, but that hasn’t stopped them from gelling as a group. Long time players like Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat have kept the chemistry in check. I think this could go down the middle, but talent-wise the Lightning are the better forward group.

Defenseman

I don’t care if the other team has Roman Josi, Victor Hedman, Drew Doughty, and John Carlson; the Islanders are a better defensive team. Especially when the Islanders defenseman is jumping up, they’re dangerous. On the other hand, the Lightning defenseman jumps up too often. And the Islanders have the speed to make the Lightning pay. If Anthony Beauvillier gets through a defensive pinch, it’s a 90% chance that’s a goal. The Lightning have more known names in their defensive group, but names don’t mean anything in the Playoffs.

Goalies

Andrei Vasilevskiy, that’s really all there is to it. He’s been one of the best goalies of the 2010s. When he’s on fire, there’s not much you can do. And the Islanders are somehow cycling through goalies, and they’re in the final four. It shows you the power of Barry Trotz.

New York Islanders: Barry Trotz must Change the Lineup for Game 7

New York islanders, Jordan Eberle

The New York Islanders have blown their 3-1 lead against the Philadelphia Flyers. Game 7 is on Saturday, and the Islanders need to make some lineup changes. With little to no momentum on their side, the Islanders need to come out swinging. Not literally swinging, but pressuring the Flyers as they did in game 1. I’ve penciled in 3 lineup changes that I believe are detrimental for the Islanders to close out the series.

Thomas Greiss

Before overtime, the Flyers had 20 shots on net, and the Islanders had 50. What was the score, you wonder? 4-4. One out of every five shots that the Flyers took went in. This is not how you win a series. Thomas Greiss is the only solution to this problem. Greiss made some huge saves during game four as the Islanders took a 3-1 lead in the series. Griess isn’t always the most reliable, but Varlamov isn’t either right now. It’s a risky move for sure, but I believe this change must occur.

Tom Kuhnhackl

Tom Kuhnhackl was excellent against the Florida Panthers and was only taken out because of the Isles’ inability to stop the power-play. Now, the Flyers’ power-play is even worse than the Islanders’. Komarov isn’t better than Kuhnhackl on offense, and the offense is what the Islanders need right now. Kuhnhackl’s forechecking works perfectly with Pageau’s ability to jump up on the defense. You can either play Kuhnhackl and get more offense or stick with Komarov and see what works.

Jordan Eberle

Jordan Eberle had at least four chances to end the series last night. Playoff Eberle has fallen off the map completely. He’s taking enough shots, but none of them are going in. I believe he has to move down a line. I don’t know who you would move up because the “B-B-B” line is doing so well. Maybe moving Josh Bailey up a line is the right move, but that’s Trotz’s decision.

Conclusion

The Islanders only have one more shot at winning this series. This is the biggest game in Islanders’ history in 27 years. The pressure is on.

New York Islanders: 3 Possible Forward Options in Free Agency

New York Rangers, Jesper Fast

The New York Islanders are still in the playoffs; they currently have a 3-2 lead over the Philidelphia Flyers. This doesn’t mean we can’t look ahead into free agency to see who Lou Lamoriello should target. This free-agent class is either a boom or bust, but not because of whos available. This class doesn’t favor the Islanders as it’s defenseman heavy. Could the Islanders go after another defenseman? Sure, is it likely, though? Probably not, but there are some good wingers left that the Islanders could use. I’m not including Mike Hoffman on this list due to originality.

Jesper Fast

Jesper Fast has been archrivals with the Islanders since his debut with the New York Rangers in 2013. Fast is not that perennial goal scorer who all Islanders’ fans want, but that doesn’t mean he can’t score. Putting Fast on the 3rd line with JG Pageau would strike fear into the hearts of the opposition. Like it says in his name, Fast is fast. Fast is a speedy winger who has great hands to dangle around defenseman. Not only that, but he’s solid on defense. Barry Trotz asks of one thing from all his players: play defense. Fast is an excellent option to sure up that 3rd line winger spot for cheap money.

Evgenii Dadonov

If you look past Mike Hoffman (and Taylor Hall), his teammate Evgenii Dadonov is the best winger in this class. Since returning to the NHL, Dadonov has put up three seasons in a row with 25+ goals. In 2019, Dadonov recorded a career-high 70 points. This move means Lamoriello must pay big money. Elite snipers on the wing don’t come cheap. And the Islanders aren’t in the best spot in terms of cap space. In a perfect world, though, Dadonov signs and plays on the 1st line with Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle. And Anders Lee gets demoted to the second line because Dadonov is left-handed. If Lamoriello somehow pulls this move off, it will only further his Hall of Fame legacy.

Valeri Nichushkin

Since joining the Colorado Avalanche, Valeri Nichushkin’s career has had some kind of a renaissance. In 2018, with the Dallas Stars, Nichushkin picked up just 10 assists in 57 games. But, this year, Nischushkin recorded 13 goals and 14 assists. Nischushkin is a solid defensive forward with a boatload of potential. I could see him filling out the 3rd line right winger spot, or even a 4th line spot. Yes, I know Ross Johnston exists, that doesn’t mean I believe Johnston should play all 82 games though. This is a cheap move for the Isles, and it makes a lot of sense.

Conclusion

There are wingers in free agency who are not named Taylor Hall or Mike Hoffman. Remember, just because they’re a big name doesn’t mean they fit with every team.

New York Islanders: How the Islanders can Win Game 6

New York Islanders, Islanders

The New York Islanders are one win away from making the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 27 years. The problem is, the Philidelphia Flyers aren’t ready to roll over. The Islanders were atrocious in game 5. The Islanders cannot repeat that performance; there cannot be a game 7. There are some mistakes the Islanders need to fix if they want to take the next step to the dance of immortals.

Breakout Passes

The Islanders have a lot of trouble breaking out of their own zone, especially in overtime. This is an elementary problem that is an easy fix. But, this one simple problem could be the end of this Cinderella run. A breakout pass creates offense and takes the pressure off the defense. If a team can break out of their own zone, they most likely will live to see another shift. That’s two overtime’s in a row where a line got caught on a long shift, and the Isles paid the price. Barry Trotz isn’t stressing over the little things, but the teams who perfect the little things win championships. This problem is not about the system, it’s the players.

Faceoffs in Big Moments

The Islanders are loaded at the center position, and they win a lot of faceoffs in regular time. Once overtime came around, the Flyers won almost every faceoff. If you have JG Pageau, Brock Nelson, and Derick Brassard on the same roster, there is no excuse to lose multiple faceoffs in a row. That’s normally why the powerplay conversion percentage is so low. If you lose the faceoff, it takes another 20 seconds to get back into the offensive zone. The same thing goes for overtime; the Islanders must win more than half of the faceoffs.

Fighting Screens

The Flyers might have three actual goals all series. Every Flyers’ goal has been some sort of tip-in. There is way too much traffic in front of Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov is a great goalie who has been on fire, but it’s hard to stop a 101MPH slapshot when five guys are in your face. The Islanders need to start using their bodies more. Ryan Pulock, Anders Lee, and Matt Martin are all big guys who have to use their bodies more. If you can move people out of the crease, Varlamov will have a field day.

Conclusion

The Islanders need to shore up on the little things before they can think about the big things. It all starts with the fundamentals of the game. Barry Trotz will whip them into winning shape, so Isles fans, there is no need to worry.

New York Islanders: 3 Key Players to Game 4’s Win

Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders

As New York Islanders‘ head coach Barry Trotz said, “that was the worst game that we’ve played to this point in the playoffs.” I don’t think the Islanders played terrible last night, but they weren’t good. Nevertheless, the Islanders take a 3-1 series lead. And for the first time in 27 years, the Islanders could be headed to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Islanders are clicking right now, and it’s a scary sight for all other teams. There were three key players to last night’s win, and they deserve to be recognized for their efforts.

Thomas Greiss

This was possibly Thomas Greiss’ last game as an Islander. Greiss gave it his all, as he made 36 saves on 38 shots. Greiss made some of the hardest saves look insanely easy. The Islanders are unbeatable when their goalies are clicking. Greiss didn’t make any mistakes last night. As Thomas Greiss said, “it’s not rocket science out there, just stop the puck.” Greiss gets the first star of the night for sure. If this is his last game, thank you, Greisser, for everything.

Brock Nelson

Who knew it could be Brocktober in Paugaust? Brock Nelson finally broke his cold streak and put up two goals last night. This is only the beginning of his hot streak; once Brock gets on a roll, he’s impossible to stop. Nelson possesses the best shot on the team by far. When he’s in front of the net with no one around him, you can bet on Nelson burying it top corner. The Islanders are dangerous even when Nelson wasn’t clicking; what’s going to happen to the league when he clicks?

Scott Mayfield

I’ve said it once, I will say it again; Scott Mayfield won the Islanders the game last night. Mayfield basically said, “okay, I’ve had it, this game is going to be over because I want it to be, I’m tying the puck up, outmuscle me.” And no one was able to outmuscle Mayfield at all. For the last 18 seconds, Mayfield kept the puck on the boards. Mayfield has a purpose, and he fulfilled it. Mayfield also got on the scorer’s sheet last night with an assist.

Honorable Mentions

Josh Bailey has to be mentioned as one of the top players. Bailey is now point per game in the playoffs. He is also tied for 4th in the NHL in assists during the playoffs. Bailey is the anchor of the B-B-B line and creates offense for everyone around him. Bailey has been criticized for too long; hopefully, now the criticisms will stop. JG Pageau deserves a mention as well because he’s the do it all guy. Lou Lamoriello should get a parade through the streets of Long Island for that trade. Pageau is tied for 3rd in playoff goals this season. How many playoff goals does that late first-round pick have again?

Conclusion

The Islanders are one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals. Soak it in Isles fans, the day you’ve dreamt about is almost here. Nine more wins and you’re lifting the Stanley Cup. The Islanders play the Flyers on Tuesday at 7 pm ET.

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

Adam Pelech, New York Islanders

Impressive is almost an insult to how the New York Islanders played in game 3. The Flyers maybe won all of 10 minutes out of a possible 60. This game was a swing game, meaning whoever won gets all the momentum in the series. The Islanders got all the momentum and then some. There were three key players to their win, and their play was sensational, to say the least.

Mat Barzal

Mat Barzal missed two golden scoring opportunities in 20 seconds. Barzal made up for this by collecting an assist on the Islanders’ first goal of the game. It’s not easy being double-teamed, especially in Hockey, but Barzal makes it look like it’s an average morning skate. Barzal has woken up since the Florida series. He used to be the turn over machine, but now he’s opening up the offense. Barzal is making smart plays, especially on the power-play, and when Barzal is on his “A” game, the whole team is.

Semyon Varlamov

Islander fans everywhere were frightened to see a repeat performance from game 2 out of their goalie. Varlamov was on his head the entire game. Nothing phased him, not one shot. Varlamov made it look very easy tonight, and that’s a relief to Islander fans. You can’t go far in the playoffs with bad goalie play, just ask the St. Louis Blues. Varlamov got the job done in game three and possibly may play again in game 4.

Adam Pelech

Who’s the most underrated player in all of Hockey right now? If you guessed anything other than Adam Pelech, you’ve guessed wrong. When the Islanders lost Pelech, the team suffered heavily and got away from Islanders Hockey. Now that he’s back, the Islanders are the most dangerous team remaining. Pelech has amazing stick skills, and he’s strong on the puck. Not only is Pelech solid defensively, but Pelech also creates a ton of offense from his neutral zone play. He did it last game on JG Pageau’s game-tying goal, and he did it this game as well. Adam Pelech continues to be one of the best-kept secrets in the NHL.

Honorable Mentions

The captain Anders Lee has arrived, and when your captain scores every game, you better believe the team follows. Lee has six goals now in the playoffs; for someone who disappears typically in the playoffs, Lee has been “captain clutch.” Derick Brassard played a great game as well. Set Leo Komarov up for his goal, when he kept the puck in the offensive zone with 10 seconds left. Glad to see the 3rd line wingers creating offense.

Conclusion

The Islanders have two more wins left to close out this series and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1993. The Islanders are real contenders, and the NHL better start respecting them.

New York Islanders: How the Islanders can Sign Mike Hoffman

New York Islanders, Mike Hoffman

The New York Islanders are one good winger away from becoming Stanley Cup champions. Mike Hoffman recorded 29 goals and 30 assists this year; the best news is that he’s a free agent this year. The sad news is that the Islanders have minimal cap space and have to resign Mat Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Devon Toews. The Islanders need to dump off some salary before even re-signing said, key players. General manager Lou Lamoriello always has something up his sleeve, so this signing is possible. What could the Islanders do to sign Mike Hoffman?

Amnesty Buyout

“What’s an amnesty buyout?” says everyone, including me. An amnesty buyout permits NHL teams to cut players without their contracts counting against the salary cap. The catch is that those players have to be paid 2/3’s of their salary over twice the length of time left on their deal. With the salary cap not improving this year due to COVID-19, the Islanders will have to cut some of their players. The first person that comes to mind is Andrew Ladd. A total dud of a signing who never stayed healthy, and never produced enough. That’s $6 million off the books. Buyout Johnny Boychuk too – there’s no reason to keep him with Noah Dobson around. The Islanders have just cleared $11.5 million dollars to sign players. Assuming Barzal, Pulock, and Toews equal 18 million dollars total, the Islanders have $3 million left.

Trades

Andrew Ladd has no trade value; the same goes for Johnny Boychuk. But, you know what every contending team needs right now? A veteran who can play the penalty kill, who can also deliver the hits. Leo Komarov is the player I’m referring to. Komarov might not have immense value, but the Islanders can easily dump him off for a 6th round pick. That’s another $3 million to work with. Thomas Hickey is buried in the AHL right now, so the Islanders might be able to get a 3rd or 4th round pick for him. Another $2.5 million comes off the books giving the Islanders at least $8.5 million to work with.

Releasing Players

Andy Greene, Thomas Greiss, Derick Brassard, Matt Martin, and Thomas Kuhnhackl are notable UFA’s this year. I’m assuming that none of them get re-signed. This isn’t due to their play, Greene has been sensational as of late. Martin, Kuhnhackl, Brassard, and Greiss are all great rotational players too. But, there just isn’t enough room for them on the roster anymore. Noah Dobson, Ilya Sorokin, Kieffer Bellows, Ross Johnston, and Oliver Wahlstrom are all ready to play. This would take approximately $11 million off the books.

Future Lineup

If all of this does happen, here are my 2020-2021 lineups:

Mike Hoffman-Mat Barzal-Anthony Beauvillier

Anders Lee-Brock Nelson-Jordan Eberle

Josh Bailey-JG Pageau-Kieffer Bellows

Ross Johnston-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck

Adam Pelech-Ryan Pulock

Devon Toews-Scott Mayfield

Nick Leddy-Noah Dobson

Semyon Varlamov

Ilya Sorokin

New York Islanders: Greiss or Varlamov for Game 3?

Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders have a real lineup decision for the first time in 5 months. Should Semyon Varlamov or Thomas Greiss get the start in the net? Varlamov got blown up in game 2 but has been solid during the bubble. Greiss is the fresher goalie, even though he just fought off 20+ shots in game 2. This decision is the biggest decision Barry Trotz has had to make in his entire tenure with the Islanders. Game 3 is a gamechanger in many ways. Whoever wins not only takes a 2-1 lead in the series but rolls with tons of momentum into game 4. Who’s the better choice to lead the Isles to a 2-1 series lead?

Why Semyon Varlamov Should Start

Semyon Varlamov is one of the best goalies in all of the bubble. If you take away this game, he had a 1.50 GAA with a .941 save percentage. Sadly, you can’t just forget about a game like this. Varlamov was beaten stick side three times and put the team in a hole very early on. Even though he had a bad game, Varlamov left the game around 6-7 minutes into the game, so he’s a fresh body for game 3. Varlamov is most likely ready to go back out there and show that his past performances weren’t flukes. The team and the fans respect and feel comfortable when “Varly” is in the net.

Why Thomas Greiss Should Start

Thomas Greiss was nothing short of excellent today, even though the Islanders came up short. Greiss’ only mistake of the game, wasn’t even his fault, it bounced off Anders Lee and sadly went in. Greiss is also a fresh body, even though he just played basically a full game. Thomas Greiss is a veteran goalie with a ton of playoff experience. There’s no reason for Greiss not to play other than Varlamov being the more talented goalie.

Conclusion

Whoever Barry Trotz chooses, the team must deliver tomorrow. There is no excuse to lose to the Flyers. The Islanders have and will continue to be the better team.