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Rosner: 10 Takeaways After Islanders First 10 Games (6-4-0)

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Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders
New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin in warmups before game against Florida Panthers (Courtesy of New York Islanders Twitter)

Through the New York Islanders first 10 games of the 2022-23 season, they have a record of 6-4-0. Their new system  They are currently riding a four-game winning streak and have showcased an ability to play more than just a defensive-minded game.

Here are my 10 takeaways:

Ilya Sorokin an Early Season Vezina Candidate

New York Islanders netminder Ilya Sorokin entered this season as the clear-cut number-one goaltender for the organization for the first time in his young NHL career. Through 10 games, Sorokin has a 4-3-0 record, with a 2.04 GAA (third-best) and a .935 SV% (fourth-best). He has one shutout that came against the New York Rangers back on Oct. 26, as he stopped 41 of 41. Per Natural Stat Trick, Sorokin owns a 6.67 GSAA, the third-best in the NHL.

Semyon Varlamov Healthy & Solid

Ilya Sorokin’s backup, Semyon Varlamov, entered the season healthy. Last season, Varlamov was not ready for training camp or the NHL season following a lower-body injury he sustained towards the end of the season. He never got into a groove during the 2021-22 season and struggled. This season, Varlamov has made three starts, posting a 3.30 GAA with a .907 SV% and a 0.34 GSAA, as he has been a positive factor.

Penalty Kill Has Been Lights Out

The New York Islanders set an NHL record, going eight games without allowing a power-play goal against. They killed off 28 of 28 to start the season but saw that streak snapped against the Colorado Avalanche last Saturday, a team that had the best power play in the sport.

Here’s how they line up:

After allowing a power-play goal to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Islanders’ penalty kill sits at 94.1 percent, 31 for 33, which is good for fourth in the NHL.

Offense Exceeding Expectations

Offense? The New York Islanders? Yep, you read that right.

The Islanders have scored the seventh most goals in the league (36) and are averaging the sixth most goals per game (3.60). Mat Barzal is without a goal, but more on that shortly.

If we look further, the New York Islanders have failed to score the game’s first goal six out of 10 times (5 GF, 5 GA in first period) yet have a winning record. They have outscored their opponents 31-20 after the first period, 19-9 in the third period.

It does help that the defensemen have come through, having scored nine of the 36, but good teams get production from the backend.

Barzal Goal-less, But Still Leading the Offense

You know the old saying, “An assist is as good as a goal.” It’s a cliche saying, but for many, it surely is–especially for Mathew Barzal.

Through 10 games, Mathew Barzal has 10 assists. As the Islanders have started to rack up the wins, Barzal’s game seems to be getting stronger and stronger. His line was not particularly great against the Blackhawks, but Oliver Wahlstrom and Josh Bailey look much stronger alongside him.

Barzal’s moving his feet, leading the transition game, and more now than ever, is playing a dynamic game, particularly in the offensive zone. While he has shown off his shot despite not scoring, his ability to peel back and find an open teammate has been stellar, leading to a handful of assists.

Lambert Has Found His Lines

The New York Islanders went 2-4-0 through their first six games and were on a three-game slide before head coach Lane Lambert decided to run his lines out like this:

Bailey-Barzal-Wahlstrom
Lee-Nelson-Beauvillier
Parise-Pageau-Palmieri
Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck (Johnston played Tuesday)

And since then, Lambert has been getting production out of each line and can now roll four lines on a nightly basis.

Besides the Nelson line, the other three lines have not been on the ice for a goal against. Think about that.

Islanders Power Play Struggling, The Final Piece

The New York Islanders’ power play is the only missing ingredient right now. They sit 20th in the NHL at just 12.9 percent, with just four on the season. Anders Lee has three of them, two coming against the Florida Panthers in Florida, while Noah Dobson had one against Florida in the season-opening 3-1 loss.

The more significant issue has not been moving the puck around the offensive zone. The problem has been transitioning into the offensive zone to set up the structure they want.

If the Islanders can get the power going, this team will be tough to beat.

Romanov-Dobson Pairing Figuring it Out

Pairing two 22-year-old defensemen together could be problematic for the New York Islanders, and early on in the season, it was. The aggressive Alexander Romanov was stepping too often, and Noah Dobson, who has played with three defensive-minded defensemen over the last three years, was not back to provide support.

Slowly but surely, these two defensemen are learning one another’s game, tendencies, and one could say that Romanov played his overall best game in blue and orange against the Blackhawks.

This could be a defensive pairing that remains together for a very long time, and it’s a positive that while the Islanders are winning, they are clicking.

The Resurgence of the Fourth Line

The New York Islanders have played 10 total games this season, and the identity line has been together for eight of those games. Not only are they forechecking hard, but they are also producing offensively, which is a bonus.

The threesome of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas, and Cal Clutterbuck have been on the ice for 60.1 minutes and have outscored their opponents 3-0.

Lamoriello’s Decisions Paying Off?

From the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline to the end of the summer, New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello was adamant that he believed in this group and the players he had.

He also trusted Lane Lambert, hiring him after firing his mentor Barry Trotz.

So far, the offense has been firing on all cylinders, the team has been able to play a more aggressive style, and the addition of Alexander Romanov, the only summer acquisition, is slowly showing signs of improvement alongside Noah Dobson.

The question will be, can the forwards be consistent goal scorers as the season progresses? If not, a move for a scorer will be a need.

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