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What We’ve Learned About the New York Islanders After 6 Games

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New York Islanders

The New York Islanders wrapped up the first leg of their 13-game road trip to start this season with a 3-2-1 record. The seven points that they picked up over their last four games have helped stabilize a rocky start to the year, which saw the Islanders drop their first two games and get outscored 11-4 in that span.

The Islanders will have five days now before their next game, which will take place on Saturday afternoon in Nashville against the Predators. New York flew home after Sunday’s 2-0 win over the Vegas Golden Knights and had the day off on Monday.

So where do the Islanders stack up after the first six games of the season? Let’s take a look.

The Road Most Traveled

The New York Islanders haven’t slept in their own beds since training camp. They’ve traveled to Carolina, Florida, Chicago, Columbus, Arizona and Las Vegas to begin the year. Quite the itinerary at any point of the year, but especially to start one of the team’s most anticipated seasons to date.

An out-of-synch Isles group appeared in the first two games before showing a semblance of the team that they were expected to be in Chicago. Columbus showed some promise as well, but it wasn’t until the final two games of the current trip that the Islanders looked like themselves.

“It’s good to get a few wins and build our confidence,” Jean-Gabriel Pageau said on Sunday. “It was a long trip for everyone, but I think it was a good trip also to get together. To get to know each other, battle through adversity and I think we finished that trip strong. We’re pretty happy with what we did this trip.”

There was certainly enough adversity for a few road trips during the first six games. The Islanders didn’t play with their full lineup until Saturday night in Pheonix and were without Matt Martin, Anders Lee and Pageau at various points of the trip.

The Islanders looked like a team out of sorts early with a number of uncharacteristic plays and penalties costing the team points. As the weekend progressed the tide changed and New York began to look a bit more like itself.

New York Islanders Ilya Sorokin

Sorokin Finds a Rythm

Ilya Sorokin is back to being the goaltender the New York Islanders need him to be while Semyon Varlamov remains sidelined. Sorokin posted back-to-back shutouts over the weekend, becoming the first goaltender in team history to record a shutout in consecutive days.

Considering that Sorokin had never played back-to-back games over the course of his career, the decision to stick with him in both games over the weekend was a bit of a gamble. Still, in the face of some incredible challenges over his time with the New York Islanders, Sorokin has responded and that hasn’t changed this season.

Even after a rough start the Russian netminder has found confidence in his game and bailed the Islanders out of some tough spots early in the year.

“He’s just a workhorse. He’s always doing something,” Mathew Barzal said. “Stretching or skipping rope or just cardio something. He’s always just working on his game and for him to just have the nights the last three or four games he did, just stand in there for it was huge for our team. Such a good guy and obviously we love him in the dressing room, so I think his confidence is just building in him every game.”

The evidence certainly seems to back that up. In Sorokin’s last four games he went 3-0-1 with a .970 save percentage and 1.00 goals-against average. Of the 140 shots that he faced, only four got by him and, according to Natural Stat Trick, in the 48 high danger chances he saw only three were converted into a goal.

Sorokin has bailed the Islanders out when things weren’t going their way and made key stops that seemed to re-energize the players in front of him. Over the past four games, plenty of Sorokin’s teammates said that they gave them a chance to win. That has certainly been true of late.

Zdeno Chara

The Chara Issue

Things haven’t gotten much better for Zdeno Chara as the Islanders’ lengthy road trip has continued. The 44-year-old defenseman has continued to struggle on the ice, including in Sunday’s win over Vegas. The veteran was caught out of position at times and his lack of speed has hindered him over the first six games of the season.

Things did not go as planned with Chara and Dobson paired with one another. Dobson is still developing and prone to mistakes, but Chara doesn’t have the speed to make up for them when they happen. Even after Trotz shuffled his defensive pairings during the Chicago game, Chara has just looked like he has struggled to keep up with the intensive system the Islanders use.

Trotz hinted before the weekend that he could make some changes on the blue line, which would have meant Sebastian Aho would have been in the lineup. Oddly though that didn’t happen and Chara appeared in both ends of the back-to-back over the weekend.

“We’re going to manage him,” Trotz said about Chara. “He’s doing something that’s incredible. He’s 44 and at 44 I couldn’t even think about playing in this league. This is a tough league to play in. We have conversations all the time and they have a big hockey team. I’m not worried about him. He’s an elite person and an elite athlete.”

Chara has followed a pattern of players who have come before him that have struggled to adjust to the Islanders system. Pageau, Kyle Palmieri and Andy Greene have all gone through slumps after joining the Islanders in the past. Still, Chara’s case feels different and there is only so long the defense can hang out with Chara playing the way he has.

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