While the 2016-17 New York Islanders season has been a disappointment so far this season, one of the few bright spots for the team has been the performance of Anders Lee. His team-leading 13th goal of the season proved to be the difference last night in the Islanders 4-3 victory over Washington. While Lee has experienced success in the NHL before, scoring 25 goals in his rookie season in 2014-15, 38 of his 42 points that season occurred during his first 63 games of the season. Lee, like many of the Islanders current young players, has been very streaky throughout his career.
While it can be argued that Lee is just going through a hot streak right now, scoring 12 of his 13 goals of the season since mid-November, it can also be argued that Lee has changed his approach. When Lee is at his best, he is usually found right in front of the opposing goaltender, screening them and deflecting shots. Lately, Lee has been doing this, but he has also been handling the puck much better and getting himself in good positions to score. His hot hand has been rewarded with some power play time alongside John Tavares. Lee has 3 power play goals this season, and has been productive since being moved to the Tavares line.
Lee has also been playing with more grit. Just last night, he fought through a strong check on a one-on-one break and was able to get a strong backhand shot to the net that went just wide of the post. It is this kind of physical toughness that will allow him to get right in front of opposing goaltenders and be able to deflect shots past them.
If Lee is able to sustain success and prove that this is more than a hot streak, it could allow for the Islanders to finally have another consistently powerful offensive weapon for opposing teams to worry about other than John Tavares. Maybe Lee’s strong , tough, and gritty playing can be the inspiration the team needs to go on a hot streak, and maybe even a playoff run.