The New York Islanders are streaking. It’s a modest three-game winning streak, but at such a critical point of the season, down a handful of players, the Islanders have put themselves in a playoff spot to ring in the new year.
They capped off back-to-back 5-1 victories, defeating the Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins, before a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.
Here are the three keys to the Islanders’ three-game winning streak:
Shutdown Defense is Back
The biggest standout throughout this three-game winning streak has been the New York Islanders’ defensive play. Over this past stretch, the Islanders have kept their opponents to under 25 shots, allowing a total of 61.
That’s just 20.33 shots per game.
As for goals, the Islanders and Ilya Sorokin have only allowed three total goals, one in each game, as Sorokin lost his shutout to the Blue Jackets with around 20 seconds to play in regulation.
Following the win over Columbus, head coach Lane Lambert was proud of his defensive effort.
“I thought defensively we were really sound,” Lambert said. “We were doing some good things in the defensive zone and ending plays, limiting chances and keeping them to the outside, so that’s probably the biggest takeaway from that game is just how solid we were defensively.”
The Islanders have been getting back to the basics.
He’s brought a calming presence to the backend which has helped the Islanders set the tone early.
“We’re doing a good job of stopping the puck on the defensive zone,” New York Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “The defensemen are playing really well and not allowing them to roll as often as we can.”
Barzal Heating Up
After 31 games to start the 2022-23 season, New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal only had three goals to his name, and his club had lost each game he had scored in. Barzal has matched that production over his last two games with three goals, and the Islanders have won all of them.
What’s changed for Barzal recently?
“I think for the most part lately, he’s been shooting the puck more, and that’s led to a little bit more success, leads to more opportunities,” Lambert said.
Over his last three games, Barzal has 10 shots on goal.
Barzal’s last two goals have served as game-winners, with his goal against the Blue Jackets coming via the power play, which snapped an 0-27 stretch for the Islanders when they have been up a man.
— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) December 30, 2022
Barzal has eight goals and 28 assists for 36 points in 37 games.
Veterans Stepping Up
There’s no question that the strong performances from the call-ups have been instrumental in the Islanders win streak, but what has been equally as important has been the play of the NHL veterans in the lineup.
Over these last three games, the Islanders have scored 12 goals, with even some struggling players producing.
Lee has three goals. Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier have two goals each, while Zach Parise, Ryan Pulock, Josh Bailey and Jean-Gabriel Pageau have one each.
They haven’t had to rely on their best player this season, in Brock Nelson, to score every night. Nelson does have four assists over these last three contests.
Not only have veterans contributed, but away from the goals, we have seen players like Casey Cizikas play out of position due to injuries and play quite well.
Before the game against Columbus, the Islanders had lost at least one player in each of the previous two games, which meant playing shorthanded.
“We have good leadership,” Lambert said. “Guys know what is presented and what’s in front of them, and I’ve thought we’ve done a really good job when we have gone down people to manage the game and play the game properly.”