Islanders scoring at high rate during 5 vs 5 play, Penguins have dropped to 29th
Two months into the season, the New York Islanders (16-9-2, 34 pts) and Pittsburgh Penguins (15-11-3, 33 pts) enter tonight’s game at PPG Paints Arena neck and neck in the standings.
It’s too early to say whether the Islanders are a team to take serious in the Metropolitan Division but there’s no denying they’ve evolved as one of the most fun teams to watch.
They have a head coach now in Doug Weight who lets his high-end talent play a free wheeling, run-and-gun game. It leads to a lot of goals in the back of their net but they’re an entertaining team to watch.
2015 first round pick Mathew Barzal who was selected by the Islanders with the 16th overall pick, which was originally Pittsburgh’s first round pick that they traded to Edmonton for David Perron, is one of the most electric players in the game already.Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
How Weight doesn’t hold Barzal back is not the norm for some coaches when dealing with young players and Barzal’s emergence is coming at the perfect time with John Tavares in the final year of his contract and not expected to make a decision on resigning with the Islanders until after the season.
The Islanders enter tonight’s game as the second highest scoring team in the NHL with 3.66 Goals/G.
A striking difference between the Penguins and Islanders is 5 vs 5 goals. New York is second in the NHL with 65 goals ( 5 vs 5), Pittsburgh is 29th with 43.
Last season Pittsburgh was second in 5 vs 5 goals with 185 goals, New York was 4th, so the Islanders have some sustainability in that key category.
Among the top-10 teams in 5 vs 5 Goals For in 2016-2017, the Islanders were the only team to miss the playoffs.
What the Islanders still can’t do is defend well enough and keep the puck out of their net. They were 24th in goals against last season and are 27th this season. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs made the playoffs last season and were bottom-12 in goals/against.
In 2015-2016, Zero teams made the playoffs in being bottom-10 in goals/against.
New York missed the playoffs by one point last season, though, they needed a six game winning streak to end the season to make things interesting.
A lot of contenders would like to see the Islanders stumble over the next two months and become sellers in February but if the Islanders are still hanging around where they are now, it’s unlikely because a decision from John Tavares isn’t coming until the summer.
Aside from the John Tavares situation, teams would be lining up to try to acquire winger Josh Bailey who carries just a $3.3 million cap hit. Defenseman Calvin de Haan would attract a pretty good market too, as would Jaroslav Halak if the Islanders keep some of the cap hit.
At least as of this point, a bigger question with the Islanders is whether GM Garth Snow gets bold and goes all-in despite the uncertainty surrounding Tavares.
Still, until they improve the goaltending and backend, they’re not a serious threat in the Metro.