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New York Islanders

Nelson Red-Hot As Islanders Rack Up Wins; What’s Changed?



New York Islanders, Brock Nelson
New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson celebrating goal with teammates against the St. Louis Blues (Photo courtesy of New York Islanders Twitter)

ST. LOUIS–After a 37-goal season in just 72 games in 2021-22, the New York Islanders would need forward Brock Nelson to bring that consistency in 2022-23 with no scorers brought in and a team desperate to prove that last year’s failure was an outlier.

Despite the shuffling of lines early this season by first-year head coach Lane Lambert, he very rarely touched Brock Nelson’s line, which consists of Anders Lee and Anthony Beauvillier. It was a line that was dominant when put together in early March of 2022.

However, that line struggled out of the gate, and Brock Nelson looked nothing like himself. Nelson is a guy who usually lights the lamp in the month of October, but he did not come out of the gates as strong as he or the team would have hoped.

In the first seven games of the season, seven games of October, the Islanders’ 2021-22 leading goal scorer sat with zero as the team sat at 3-4-0. He did have points, racking up six assists, but the 31-year-old’s play was a bit concerning.

Not only was he not scoring, but he was turning the puck over, struggling to get back on defense, and the Islanders were struggling to produce offensively and win hockey games on a consistent basis.

Over those first seven games, Nelson recorded 18 shots on goal, but only four at five-on-five. His Expected Goals For, per Natural Stat Trick, sat at just 0.74 as he only created eight scoring chances for himself, and only two were considered high-danger chances.

Forget the analytics for a second. Watching Nelson play, he was not cutting to the slot. He was not fighting to get to the front of the net. When he had shooting lanes, he seemed to pass instead, which showed the signs of a player lacking confidence.

” I think it would be really nice [to score] for sure,” Nelson said following practice back on Oct. 25.  “You have looks. I’d like to get one to get momentum and see it go in and kind of go on a roll and rattle off.”

“You like to get right back out there the next day and try and get it, so just got to stick with it, get the shots, get the looks, try and capitalize and go from there.”

As mentioned, Nelson had points despite the goals, with six assists in seven games. But he is a goal scorer, and that’s his role with the team, which he understood.

“There’s other ways to help the team, but you want to produce offense. You want to be able to score so you battle frustrations and different things. You also need to kind of let that go and just go play free, and like I said, you can impact in different ways.”

“Getting the looks, and you get one, and all of a sudden [it’s a] different story.”

After being held scoreless for the seventh straight game in a 3-0 win over the New York Rangers, that changed as Brock Nelson finally got his first and second goals of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes in a 6-2 win.

He followed up that two-goal performance with his third in as many days as he scored an empty-netter against the Colorado Avalanche, which gave the Islanders a 5-3 lead.

With the Avalanche scoring in the waning seconds of the third, Nelson’s goal served as the game-winner.

Nelson now had three goals over his last two games, after zero in his first seven.

“I just think he’s really skating,” New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “When he gets going, he’s a terrific skater. I think that bleeds into everything with his game. He’s been really moving his legs.”

Nelson added yet another goal in the Islanders’ next game against the Chicago Blackhawks, as he scored on the breakaway to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead, which again, served as the game-winner in a 3-1 victory.

He scored his fifth goal in four games as he beat Jordan Binnington off a nice feed from Anders Lee to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead five minutes into the third.

During his four-game goal streak, he has 11 points with five goals and two assists. He’s shot the puck 14 times, nine coming at five-on-five.

“As we said when he didn’t have any goals, we weren’t concerned in the sense that he was getting his chances and we felt they would come, Lambert said following Thursday’s practice. “He’s just continuing to do the same thing and he’s being rewarded for it.”

His Expected Goals For (five-on-five) is still low at 0.40, but he has created six individual scoring chances and two high-danger chances.

As for the eye test, Nelson is skating with confidence.

In transition Thursday against the Blues, he flipped the puck to himself before breaking into St. Louis’s zone.

He’s getting down low and making plays behind the opponents net, as we saw on this Anders Lee tally:

The Islanders are winning, and Brock Nelson has played an integral role. Consistency is key, and that has been one area of Nelson’s game that has had its up and downs. He’s a streaky player, but as we saw last season, that streak can last a full year.

Can Brock Nelson stay hot when the New York Islanders face the Detroit Red Wings Saturday at 1 PM?