After dropping the season opener last Thursday against the Florida Panthers, a 3-1 defeat, the New York Islanders have won two straight games, as they beat the Anaheim Ducks 7-1 on Saturday, followed by a 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.
Through those three games, the New York Islanders have outscored their opponents 12-4 and outshot their opponents 117-80. We have seen both the defensemen and the forwards create and produce offensively and defensively.
From the actions or inactions of New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello, there was a tremendous amount of pressure for certain players who had down years in 2021-22 to bounce back, especially early in 2022-23.
Production or not, some players have looked rejuvenated this season, a promising sign for a New York Islanders team that needs all hands on deck if they are going to make their way back to the postseason in a tough Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference.
Here are the talking points through three games.
Production Balancing Out
After two games, the New York Islanders scored eight goals, with six coming from the backend. Scott Mayfield, Robin Salo, and Noah Dobson each had two goals, as the lack of production from the forwards was a tad concerning.
It doesn’t matter who scores the goals as long as they come, but New York wanted to see their forward group produce more.
That happened on Tuesday night, as the Islanders got all five goals from their forwards. Oliver Wahlstrom continued his impressive start to the season, as he has three through three games. Zach Parise, Anders Lee, and Cal Clutterbuck scored their first goals of the season, as three different lines contributed.
Fourteen of the Islanders’ 18 starters have points, with 12 of the 14 having two or more points. Four of those 12 have four points.
Only one player has a plus/- in the negatives, and that’s Anthony Beauvillier at -1.
We must discuss the Islanders’ goaltending if we are discussing balanced production.
Ilya Sorokin has started two games and has stopped 48 of 51 shots that have come his way, suitable for a .941 SV%. He has stopped 17 of 18 high-danger shots that have come his way and seems to be in mid-season form early.
For Semyon Varlamov, he stopped 26 of 28 shots that came his way on Tuesday, a .929 SV% to start his season. He stopped 11 of 12 high-danger chances.
Perfect Penalty Kill
The New York Islanders penalty kill has been outstanding through the first three games–and it’s had to be.
The Islanders have taken 14 penalties, awarding 12 power plays to their opponents, but have shut the door on each opportunity.
They have allowed just 13 total power-play shots on those 12 chances, mustering five short-handed shots.
The Islanders played with fire against a Florida Panthers power play that was ranked top five in the NHL a season ago, taking five penalties. Against the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks, they took four.
MC Squared Line Playing Exponentially Better
After last season’s struggles, the New York Islanders’ identity line seemed not to be as effective as it once was and given their grueling style of play, it seemed that maybe it was time for that line to be broken up. Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin seemed like a shell of their former selves, and Cal Clutterbuck struggled to stay on the ice.
But they changed the narrative early in 2022-23. After Cal Clutterbuck missed the first game of the season, that line has been back to their usual ways of setting the tone early, laying the body, and doing what needs to be done to not allow pucks into the back of their net.
That line has played 17.3 minutes over the first two games, with one goal of their own and none for the opposition.
They’ve held their opponents to a 0.8 Expected Goals Against, and the Islanders have outshot their opponents 21-10 when the MC squared line is on the ice.
In total, the threesome has combined for 11 shots, 28 hits, six takeaways, two giveaways, and three blocks.
Casey Cizikas, who has won 65 percent of his face-offs to start the season, has showcased an extra pep in his step this season.
“I certainly have liked his jump, and I thought he was really moving tonight,” Lambert said after Tuesday’s game. “You know, that line again, full marks, and he was using his speed. There’s no question about it. Hunting pucks down, and he was good on the penalty kill as well again.”
Matt Martin was in and out of the lineup last season following ankle surgery. He never really looked to be 100 percent healthy but head coach Lane Lambert likes what he has seen from him.
“He’s looking good. He had a really good summer this summer as compared to last summer, which put them ahead of the head of the game in terms of how he feels, so it looks like he’s skating well.”
Following the Islanders 7-1 destruction of the Ducks, New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert, who started the fourth line, spoke on their importance.
“They started the game, and, you know, they gave us energy right off the bat,” Lambert said. “And that’s, you know, that’s their job. They know that’s their job, and they did a good job of it.”
After the 5-2 win over the Sharks, Lambert credited them again for their work.
“Their line, you know, they definitely pulled us in. We started [playing better] in the second period. They got us going.”