Heading into the 2019-20 NHL season the New York Islanders were simply looked at as an afterthought. Even though they swept Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins last playoffs, many fans and analysts around the league saw them as a major “regression candidate”. Now, these fans and analysts may have had some justification at hand when they said that. This is in part due to the Islanders having a hard time scoring last season, and it certainly did not help them when they struck out on Artemi Panarin during the first day of free agency. It also didn’t help when they failed to re-sign Vezina Trophy candidate Robin Lehner after his magical season on Long Island. However, it seems as if the boys in blue and orange have yet again started their journey on proving people wrong.
The last time the New York Islanders had a ten game win streak was when they were in the midst of a dynasty. That time, the Isles had a historic winning streak which lasted 15 games. To put this stretch of time between streaks into perspective, the last time the Islanders had a double digit win streak there was not a single current Islander alive to see it. That is remarkable.
Well, now the current team doesn’t have to worry about not seeing the first double digit win streak in Isles history. Why? Because they’re creating another one on their own. The New York Islanders are officially on top of the New York sports world. Led by the dynamic play of Mathew Barzal, and the excellent coaching of Barry Trotz, this team looks like they’re unstoppable. The potential goaltending issue that was mentioned before due to the departure of Robin Lehner is non-existent. During the ten game winning streak both Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov are 5-0-0 with nearly identical save percentages. Oh, and about their scoring, the Islanders are only the second team since 1934 to have scored more than 90% of their goals at even strength during a winning streak of ten or more. Furthermore, they have scored 34 goals throughout these ten games. That equates to 3.4 goals scored per game. That certainly doesn’t look like a team that is having any trouble putting the puck in the net.
Surprisingly, the biggest factor of their win streak may not even be their scoring or goaltending. There is a huge argument to be made that it’s largely due to their defense. The Islanders don’t have any defenseman who are seen around the league as all-stars. However, when their defenseman are all playing together, there is no other defenseman in the league that the Islanders would rather have. During this stretch the Islanders defense has been by far the best in the league. It is even crazier to think that they’ve had to play two of these games without veteran Nick Leddy, who seemed to have injured himself against the Tampa Bay Lightning last Friday night. Although it’s bad to see Leddy injured, the injury has brought teenage defenseman Noah Dobson into the spotlight. Dobson has played excellently in these past two games, even recording an assist against the Senators.
Along with Dobson, there have been many other rookies and young players who have taken advantage of their opportunities to play in the NHL due to injuries. Oliver Wahlstrom, Cole Bardreau, Ross Johnston, and Michael Dal Colle have all been given a good amount of minutes while their veteran counterparts are out. The emergence of these young players into the lineup just gives another reason as to why this streak is so special. And for Cole Bardreau, who scored his first career NHL goal on a penalty shot against the Senators the other night, this win streak could be what gives him a full-time spot in the lineup for the rest of the season.
As for tonight, the Islanders will be taking on the Penguins for the first time since their sweep of them in the playoffs last season. Hopefully, they will be exiting victorious, with their eleventh straight victory. And even if they lose, it will be alright. It is important to remember that inevitably, this magical winning streak will come to an end, but the one thing that can be taken away is that this Islanders team is ready to contend for the Stanley Cup.