The New York Islanders have just completed their 41st game of the 2022-23 season as we have reached the halfway mark.
Unlike a season ago, the Islanders find themselves in a playoff spot, the second wild-card position, with a record of 22-17-2, with 46 points.
Despite their positioning, the Islanders have been a mediocre hockey club thus far.
Here are the top-5 takeaways from their first half:
Offensive Adjustments Lead to Defensive Debacles
One thing that first-year head coach Lane Lambert did early on was activate his defenseman, which has helped the New York Islanders create more offense on a nightly basis.
After 41 games, the Islanders have scored 3.15 goals per game, which ranks 18th out of 32 teams. Last season, the Islanders scored just 2.79, so Lambert’s strategy has paid off offensively.
The Islanders backend leads the NHL in goals among defensemen, as led by Noah Dobson and his 10 goals, his blue-line comrades have combined for 25.
Despite an uptick in offense, their power play has not helped out as they are sixth-worst in the NHL at 18.33 percent.
The activation of the defensemen has exposed the Islanders defensively. They have allowed 2.73 goals against per game, which isn’t terrible, eighth-best in the NHL. Just a few years ago, the Islanders were teetering toward the top of the NHL, playing a shutdown brand of hockey.
You can add the penalty kill to that as well, as although they haven’t been as lights out as they were earlier in the season, they are 10th best at 91.3 percent.
Better at UBS
The New York Islanders have played 18 games in front of their fans this season, with a 12-6-0 record. They have recorded 24 of a possible 36 points on home ice, a .667-point percentage.
They have outscored their opponents 58-41, with a 15.1 percent power play and an 89.1 percent penalty kill.
When they have scored first on home ice, they have yet to lose with a perfect 7-0-0 record. When they allowed the opponents to score first, they had a solid 5-6-0 record and were 8-0-0 when leading after two periods.
After the disastrous opening of UBS Arena last season, home ice has been a much-needed advantage, given how much they have struggled on the road.
Not Getting it Done on the Road
The New York Islanders have played 23 games on the road, the second most of any NHL team at this point in the season. And have a losing record of 10-11-2, recording 22 of a possible 46 points (.478 P%).
Despite the under .500 record, the Islanders have not been outscored on the road, currently at a standstill with 71 goals for and 71 goals against.
Their power play has been better on the road, at 20.9 percent, while their penalty kill has been worse, at just 76.6 percent.
Scoring first on the road is critical, and the Islanders have done that 11 times in 23 road games but own just a 7-4-0 record when accomplishing that feat, as when they allow the opponents to score first, they are just 3-7-0.
The Islanders are 7-1-0 when leading after the first and second periods.
They are coming off a four-game road trip where they failed too often early, going 1-3-0, leaving critical points on the table.
Standouts & Strugglers
After signing an eight-year extension before the season, Mathew Barzal has 11 goals and 30 assists in 40 games, currently on a six-game goal streak.
Brock Nelson leads the Islanders in goals with 15 and is second on the team with 23 assists, as he’s headed to his first All-Star Game appearance down in South Florida.
Zach Parise, the grizzled veteran, has 12 goals and seven assists as he has had a strong bounce-back season.
Noah Dobson is second in the NHL among defensemen with 10 goals and 14 assists.
Ilya Sorokin has been the best goaltender in the Metropolitan Division with a 2.29 GAA and a .926 SV%, along with three shutouts in 29 appearances.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau has done it all for New York, with 10 goals and 14 assists, along with winning 57 percent of his draws.
Anthony Beauvillier has just eight goals and eight assists in 38 games, finding himself a healthy at points this season.
Josh Bailey, who has been a healthy scratch a handful of times this season, has just six goals and 11 assists in 37 games.
Robin Salo, who won the sixth defenseman job out of training camp, has shown that he is not yet ready to be an NHL player.
Injury Bug Unavoidable
The New York Islanders were ransacked with injuries in the first half after a quiet first month and a half. Here are the current injuries:
Mathew Barzal: Day-to-day with a lower-body injury, missed one game
Oliver Wahlstrom: Out indefinitely (IR) with a lower-body injury, has missed five games
Simon Holmstrom: Day-to-day (IR) with a lower-body injury, has missed six games, is skating
Kyle Palmieri: Day-to-day (IR) with an upper-body injury, has missed 10 games and 19 of last 20, is skating
Adam Pelech: Out indefinitely with an upper-body injury (IR), has missed 14 games, should start skating soon.
Cal Clutterbuck missed 13 games with a few different injuries this season. Netminder Semyon Varlamov missed eight games with a lower-body injury before returning to the crease Friday night.
There’s no question that the Islanders need to get healthy to give themselves a chance.
With all the injured players, the New York Islanders have had to rely on call-ups, who have played exceptionally well.
Simon Holmstrom showed off his defensive prowess in his 14 NHL games before his injury, with two goals. Hudson Fasching has been a revelation, with two goals and two assists in 14 games, proving to be a versatile player for Lane Lambert.
Top prospect Aatu Räty has looked strong in his limited minutes in seven NHL games, with two goals.
Defenseman Parker Wotherspoon, a rookie at 25, has filled in for Adam Pelech quite nicely, playing solid defense alongside Ryan Pulock.