The Islanders hot streak of late seems to be the result of the strong play of goalie Thomas Greiss, which has been a constant throughout the season, and the strong chemistry of late on the first line of Tavares, Lee, and Bailey. Going into the season, the Islanders viewed newly acquired Andrew Ladd as Tavares’s linemate for years to come. However, Ladd has been nothing short of a disappointment, being moved off of the first line fairly early in the season. Lee’s strong play this season earned him a promotion to the first line alongside Tavares, and the two have seemed to click of late.
Over his past 6 games, Tavares has 8 goals, including a hat trick against the Panthers. Lee has 6 points in his last 5 games. In the case of Tavares, he is playing his best hockey all season, thanks in large part to the opportunities set up for him by Lee and Bailey. While Lee isn’t quite as good of a linemate for Tavares as Kyle Okposo was, he has definitely played very well on the first line, even earning himself power play time alongside Tavares.
As for Thomas Greiss, he is the reason that the Islanders are at least over .500. His strong goaltending throughout the season has kept them in games that they had no business being competitive in. It seems as if he is only getting better. Greiss recently had back-to-back shutouts against the Bruins and Stars. He had his shutout streak snapped late in the second period of last night’s overtime loss to the Flyers at 154:10. He ended the night with 44 saves.
In order for the Islanders to have a chance at making a strong run at the playoffs in the second half, they need more scoring from the other lines. They can’t keep relying on Tavares to do all the scoring. While Jason Chimera and Nikolay Kulemin have been playing well lately, they need to maintain this success, hopefully with help from their linemates. Chimera has 4 goals in his last 6 games. Kulemin has 2 goals and 2 assists over the last 4 games.
While the Islanders’ power play and penalty kill has looked good since Doug Weight took over as head coach, they need to show consistency. The move of Tavares to the penalty kill seems to have been very smart. Tavares has looked very strong on the penalty kill, even having a shorthanded goal against the Stars. The power play played a key roll in the Islanders’ 4-2 win over the Kings Saturday, thanks to 3 power play goals. Despite failing to convert on the power play in last night’s overtime loss to the Flyers, the Islanders were very sharp on their first power play of the game late in the third period. They spent the first 1:45 of the power play in the offensive zone, registering 4 shots and nearly scoring when Ryan Strome’s shot into a yawning net was saved by a defenseman in the crease. The main question is whether or not they can continue their solid play on the special teams lately.
Despite being tied for last in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders are only 5 points out of the last wild card spot currently held by the Flyers, while also having 3 games in hand. If the Islanders can have a strong second half of the season, they may be able to salvage a playoff berth. The way the Islanders perform for the rest of the season will likely determine the fate of Doug Weight as head coach of the team. There is still plenty of the season left for them to recover.