NYI vs. BOS - 3/9
From the opening puck drop this game looked like it was going to be a war between 2 of the best teams in the east division. Jaroslav Halak and Semyon Varlamov took the starting nod from their coaches as the Islanders and Bruins would face off in their fourth meeting of the season series. David Pastrnak would get us started with under a minute to play in the first period with a powerplay goal past a falling Semyon Varlamov, this was the only blemish on the night for Varly as he fell down to the ice allowing the long shot from Pastrnak to get past him. The score would remain the same for the final 28 seconds of the first period of play. This game was a battle all night long between two defensive minded teams unprepared to give the other side an inch. Brock Nelson tied the game and got New York on the board with a powerplay goal his 10th of the year, the assist came from Pageau and Barzal their 8th and 14th respectively. The score would remain the same for the rest of the second setting us up for one of the more important third periods for both sides. The Islanders and Bruins would play an extremely tight checking, physical, and more importantly a scoreless third period. This overtime featured a multitude of high quality chances for both sides and it was one of the better 3-3 sessions I have seen from either side, even with all of those opportunities the Islanders and Bruins would remain tied after 65 minutes of war. The shootout would start with Jordan Eberle going top shelf over Halak, Beauviller would make a gorgeous forehand backhand move putting it up into the roof of the net in Frans Neilson esque goal and, Semyon Varlamov would shut the door on a shootout attempt from Brad Marchand and pump his fist in raw emotion as the Islanders goal horn thundered for a crucial win that sees the Islanders push their point streak to 9 games and building more separation over those below them in the standings, what a night for New York.
NYI vs. BOS - 3/11
The New Jersey Devils would come to the Nassau Coliseum with hopes of souring a very exciting night. For the first time in 369 days the Islanders will play with fans in the Nassau Coliseum as 1,000 frontline hero’s would be welcomed into the Barn to thank them for their tremendous efforts throughout this global pandemic. The Islanders would not disappoint as 3 minutes into the game they would get a goal from the searing hot fourth line as Matt Martin would score on a long range shot for his 5th of the season matching his total from last season. The fourth line really provided the energy and jump for the Isles and they were far and away the best line during this game. Just around the halfway point of the first Adam Pelech would score a goal past Mackenzie Blackwood who was knocked down by his own teammate. Later on in the first there was a scary situation between Islanders captain Anders Lee and Pavel Zacha as the two collided and went down to the ice, Zacha immediately got up and skated away but the pain would not go for Lee, the Islanders captain and leading goal scorer would go down the tunnel largely on his own power but it did not look good as he was in a world of pain favoring his right leg, coach Trotz did not provide any update one Lee’s status but Lee is still being evaluated and more update will be available at a later date. One area of concern in tonight’s game was the Islanders power play, the Devils came into the game worst in the league in PK% and the Islanders were awful, New York went 0/5 including a double minor, their passes were not crisp and they did not play to their best ability. The score would remain 2-0 till the end of the first period. 14 Minutes into period 2 Noah Dobson would score on an odd goal which would include a video review, Noah Dobson would throw the puck towards the net with Oliver Wahlstrom coming around the side of the net and being directed into Mackenzie Blackwood by Sami Vatenen and Damon Severson would end up sliding the puck past his own goaltender to make the game 3-0 New York. 3 Minutes later the Islanders’ hard work would pay off as Matt Martin would dump the puck into the corner and force the Devil’s into a turnover then Casey Cizikas used his patience to wait out the Devils and slide a pass to Josh Bailey and he would make no mistake on the easy tap in to make the game 4-0 New York. Through two New York was dominating but they needed a solid third period to secure the win. The Devils would make it interesting with 2 quick goals (40 seconds apart) with the first coming from Janne Kuokkanen his third of the year and Mikhail Maltsev his 4th of the year. At this point the Devils had completely swung the momentum in their favor, Barry Trotz would call a timeout to refocus the Isles and it worked, Brock Nelson would score his 11th goal of the season which calmed the game down from there. The Devils would get one more goal on the night as Jack Hughes would slip a backhander past Ilya Sorokin. Overall it was a good win for New York with just a few fixable areas of concern but they came away with the 2 points in a 5-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils in game one of a 3 game set. New York pushed their point streak to 10 games, win streak to 7 games, and remained undefeated on home ice and they will only get better on home ice as more fans come into the building.
NYI vs. NJD - 3/13
The Islanders would play without their captain for the first time in 295 games, Kieffer Bellows would take his spot on the first line. This would go down as the “kids” game. Pavel Zacha opened the scoring for New Jersey, beating Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov at the 6:37 mark of the first period to give the Devils the 1-0 lead. I’m sure it’s one Varly wants back but at the end of the day the puck went in and the game was 1-0. Around 11 minutes later New York would tie the game at one with a snipe by Oliver Wahlstrom as he continues to tear up the league in his rookie season, Wahlstrom’s goal was unassisted as the score would remain the same for the remainder of the first frame. Janne Kuokkanen would give New Jersey a 2-1 lead as he scored in his second straight game against the Isles, New Jersey would hold that 2-1 lead for the last 18:56 of the 2nd period and the first 2 minutes of the third. From this point on we will just call it the Kieffer Bellows show. The rookie would bury his first of the year past Mackenzie Blackwood to tie the score at 2 just 2 minutes into period 3. The assist came from Barzal and Eberle as the Islanders would get themselves back into the game and set us up for an exciting final period. Kieffer Bellows would drive to the goal and score again to give New York the 3-2 lead! Semyon Varlamov would stand strong in the final 2 minutes and secure the victory for the red hot first place New York Islanders!
NYI vs. NJD - 3/14
This was truly the most chaotic game of the season for New York, just minutes before the game they found out they would be missing two of their most important pieces on top of Anders Lee. Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Noah Dobson would be added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list meaning Austin Czarnik and Sebastian Aho would take their spots. Aho has not played at the NHL level in 3 years,to put them into perspective Doug Weight was the Islanders coach and Garth Snow was New York’s general manager. Rumors of a trade were swirling around for the early part of this game but they were eventually put to bed. The game would start a few minutes late as the referees would have to figure out the roster and Aho and Czarnik had to throw their gear on. Finally we would get the puck down and start this game which itself was equally odd. Just 4 minutes into the game Sebastian Aho would make an instant impact in his first NHL game in 3 years as he threw a shot on goal which was touched last by Kieffer Bellows as he picked up his third goal in the last 2 periods. New York would not hold the lead for long as just around a minute later the Devils would tie it with a goal from Janne Kuokkanen who has absolutely torched New York with his 3rd goal in as many games tying the score at 1. It seemed New York and New Jersey would take a 1-1 tie into the first intermission until with around 1 second to play first period Brock Nelson would turn and throw a shot into the net past Scott Wedgewood giving New York a 2-1 lead. Devils rookie Yegor Sharangovich would score his 5th of the year tying the score at 2 at the 16:04 mark of the second period. The score would remain the same for the remainder of the second period and the third period. The Islanders would get the point extending their point streak to 11 games. This overtime was truthfully one that when you look back on you cannot even describe, PK Subban would get a pass and rifle the puck past Ilya Sorokin and the game was over or so we thought. Barry Trotz refused to leave the Islanders bench and the league commissioned a video review of the Devils goal, the play was deemed to be offside and by the smallest of margins the Islanders win streak was alive. The rest of overtime would be mostly spent on the penalty kill as Brock Nelson would head to the penalty box and most of the remaining time in OT would be spent on OT. One play by Josh Bailey just particularly frustrated me in overtime. I generally try to stay away from my opinion in an article by here I just have to “Josh what are you doing” Bailey was given a gorgeous pass in front of the net and instead of taking the wide open shot up high in which he could have easily beat Wedgewood he tried to make the move to his back hand and he ended up pulling it right into the diving New Jersey defenseman instead of taking the shot on goal creating an opportunity going the other way. This has been an issue not only just with Bailey but with the Islanders as a whole especially on the powerplay. After a scoreless overtime we would head to the shootout in which even then the game could not be normal as every aspect of this game was simply abnormal. Ilya Sorokin’s former teammate from CSKA Moscow Nikita Gusev would come in and score to put New Jersey up 1-0 in the shootout. Jordan Ebelre would come in and Scott Wedgewood would come up with a nice glove save to leave us at 1-0 NJ after the first round of the shootout. Neither side would score in round 2 of the shootout as Bratt was stopped and Mathew Barzal lost control of the puck. Pavel Zacha would be stopped by Ilya Sorokin meaning that Anthony Beauvillier must score to keep the game alive and he did just that leaving us tied at 1 through 3 rounds of the shootout. In round 4 Ilya Sorokin would make a huge stop on Jack Hughes and for the first time in his career Oliver Wahlstrom would hop over the boards for a shootout attempt, a position he will certainly thrive in in his career. Wahlstrom would drift right then snap home an absolute missile of a wrist shot to give the New York Islanders their 9th consecutive win in the most amazing fashion.
THIS WEEK OVERALL:
The Islanders held their 1st place spot in the East and they finished 4 points up on their division rival Washington Capitals. They picked up all 8 available points this week with a 2-1 shootout win over Boston, a 5-3 win over New Jersey, a 3-2 win over New Jersey, and a thrilling 3-2 shootout win to secure the sweep of the 3 game set with New Jersey pushing their win streak to 9 games. On a surface level this may look like an immaculate week for New York they have a few significant concerns, they lost their captain Anders Lee for at least the next 10 games and they lost Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Noah Dobson to the COVID protocol list.
THE WEEK AHEAD:
This week coming up is the beginning of the toughest stretch of the season for the New York Islanders, they will start with a Tuesday night game in Washington as they gun for a 6 point lead in the division and their 10th consecutive win, then they start another 3 game set for the 3rd week in a row this time with the Philadelphia Flyers with 2 of the 3 games coming this week. Game one of that set will be Thursday at 7:00 PM live from the Nassau Coliseum and game two will be at 7:00 pm this coming Saturday as the Islanders look to rally around their whole lineup to keep rolling.