Good morning guys and welcome back to another edition of a New York Islanders Mailbag with me, your reading host Stefen Rosner.
As always thank you to everyone who sent in their questions, comments, and concerns regarding all things the New York Islanders.
New York Islanders Mailbag: Power Play coming through lately, Young players stepping up
How important is it to the Islanders’ success down the line if they can keep the power play performing at the high level it’s at right now? (@KC1798)
The Islanders’ power play has been red-hot as of late, as they are now converting at a 25-percent clip, after starting off ice cold. In the win Sunday night, the Islanders went two-for-five with the man advantage. Over their last five games, the Islanders are coming through 36.36 percent of the time, converting four times on 11 chances.
When’s the last time you heard that?
On the television broadcast Sunday night, Islanders play-by-play broadcaster Brendan Burke mentioned that the Islanders were coming through at a 70-percent clip against all the other teams in the division besides the Boston Bruins. You know, the team the Isles are 3-0-0 against.
Moving forward, it is a necessity for the Islanders to stay above the 20 percent mark. Since the two Buffalo Sabres games were postponed during the week of Feb 1, the Islanders’ power play has had a new look – a simple look.
Last season in the playoffs, the Islanders’ power play was abysmal, as they came through only 15.4 percent of the time. Your special teams need to be a weapon, a momentum-swinger, rather than a deflator.
In Sunday night’s win, the Islanders scored twice on the power play, as that was the difference-maker. They were unable to beat Penguins’ netminder Casey DeSmith five-on-five but made the most of the Penguin infractions. An effective power play will be key to the Islanders finishing in a top-four spot come season’s end.
Do they really need to go out and get a “scorer?” I’m not so sure now at this point. (@Lauruska)
The Islanders fanbase has been longing for a high-caliber goalscorer. As this past Free Agency period came and went, fans were displeased to not bring in someone to help this offense. With money being scarce, General Manager Lou Lamoriello focused more on in-house players.
With Oliver Wahlstrom bursting onto this scene this year, the Islanders fanbase can breathe a sigh of relief, as he seems to be the real deal. Sunday night he netted the first goal of the game, as he refiled a goal high glove-side on the power play to give his team a 1-0 lead. He then picked up the secondary assist on the J-G Pageau power-play goal, after a nice cross-seam pass to Nick Leddy.
The 20-year old is now on a modest four-game point streak as he is finding his own at the NHL level. Playing on the third-line with Pageau and on the second power-play unit, Wahlstrom is gaining confidence each and every shift. Eventually we would like to see him playing alongside Mat Barzal, but for now, Wahlstrom gives this Islander team much-needed scoring depth.
If Wahlstrom can keep this up for the rest of the regular season, as well as in the playoffs would it be enough to get this team over the hump against a team like Tampa? It really depends on if the second-line can improve as the season progresses, as they were the team’s best line in the playoffs.
Getting another goalscorer would not hurt.
What rookie is most important to the Islanders’ success the rest of the season? Sorokin, Wahlstrom or Dobson? @MTScanlan)
The New York Islanders, one of the oldest teams in the NHL, are seeing their youngsters contribute to their success. Goaltender Ilya Sorokin has recorded back-to-back shutouts over his last two starts, forward Oliver Wahlstrom, like mentioned above, is on a four-game point streak, and defenseman Noah Dobson has shown exponential growth on the defensive side of the puck, as well as on the offense, manning the point on the top power play unit.
To me, the player that is most vital to the team’s success is Oliver Wahlstrom. The Islanders offense this season has scored 2.67 goals per game, but over their last four games they have scored 3.75 goals per game. Wahlstrom is on a four-game point streak. Do the math.
I rest my case.
Wahlstrom has seven points in 14 games this season (3G, 4A), but it is all about consistency at the NHL level. The Islanders already have a handful of players like Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvilier who are streaky scorers. What this team needs is someone besides Barzal that can contribute to the offense, whether their name appears on the scoresheet or not.
They need a player that makes those key plays in the offensive zone whether it is winning puck battles along with the board, getting pucks back to the point to set up a cycle or making those BIG plays in both zones. And I think Wahlstrom could get there, but probably not this season if the season continues as it has.
Now Noah Dobson’s play is rather important as well. The 21-year old defenseman went from being a healthy scratch more often than not in the 2019-20 campaign to a staple in the Islanders’ lineup and the man Head Coach Barry Trotz chose to quarterback the team’s top power-play unit. With Devon Toews on Colorado and Johnny Boychuk on the verge of retirement due to an injury, Dobson was called upon and he has answered the call. He has come through with pivotal plays that have directly impacted the scoreboard and he has already surpassed his points total from last year in 13 fewer games.
Rookie netminder Ilya Sorokin has performed quite well over his last two games, denying a combined forty shots for back-to-back shutout performances. Over the team’s 20 games this season, veteran Semyon Varlamov has started 16 games and it seems he may be tiring. Sorokin has showcased trustworthiness and has now given Coach Trotz an opportunity to rest Varlamov without it being a major downgrade. In his first few NHL starts, Sorokin was shaky as he needed to get acclimated to a new ice surface and the style of the NHL game. But now, Sorokin looks as good as advertised, as the New York Islanders will have yet another strong tandem this season.