By Jack Fenty
By now you know that the Islanders will miss the playoffs for a second straight season, and this year they were no where near making it. This blog will break down what went right and what went wrong for the Isles this season.
The Islanders finished the season with the 8th most goals for in the league with a total of 264. Teams in front of the Isles in goals are Nashville, Winnipeg, Toronto, Vegas, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, and Boston; the common denominator between all seven of those teams is they will be participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Also, the Isles finished 6th in Power Play percentage with 23.2%. The teams in front of them…Pittsburgh, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Boston, and Winnipeg.
Looking at both goals total in the season and their overall powerplay percentage, it is safe to say the Islanders had a playoff caliber offense and were one of the best in the entire league this year. Players such as John Tavares, Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Jordan Eberle, Nick Leddy, and the emergence of both Anthony Beauvillier and Mathew Barzal led the offense.
The first line. Bailey-JT-LEE
To begin the season, this was the hottest line in the NHL, but things started to cool down after the All-Star break. At the end of the day, it did not really affect the Isles that much because they could not defend. John Tavares had another amazing season, he tallied 37 goals and 47 assists on a potent line with Anders Lee and Josh Bailey. Anders Lee, the best power forward in the league, scored 40 goals after toppling his career record of 34 from last year. Lee dominated below the blue line and created havoc for goaltenders in front of the net. His final stat line was 40 goals and 22 assists. Lastly, the assist man, Josh Bailey, had an amazing season - simple as that. He had a stat line of 18 goals and 52 assists for a total of 70 points which blew his career point record of 56 points out of the water. Also, good news is that Bailey signed a six-year deal for 30 million dollars over those 6 seasons. Hopefully the Islanders will be able to keep this first line together for years to come…
The Second line.
For most of the first half of the season Andrew Ladd, Barzal, and Eberle were together. The line was productive; no one is taking that away from them. Ladd was the physical power forward who would be in front for the most part. Then came Mat Barzal who was the skill and the passer of the line. Lastly, Eberle was the scorer. This changed after Andrew Ladd went down with an injury, and because of that Anthony Beauvillier stepped into Barzal’s wing. From there this line absolutely exploded. Jordan Eberle finished the season with 25 goals and 34 assists. Beauvillier finished the season with 21 goals and 15 assists. Lastly, Mat Barzal had 22 goals and 63 assists, he was the Isles highest point getter. Every time this line hit the ice an excitement built for me. They were quick, explosive, and most importantly efficient. This was the only line that on a nightly basis sustained offensive pressure. There were four Islander forwards who had a positive plus/minus. Can you guess who they were? Barzal, Eberle, Beauvillier, and Ladd. Shows a lot since this team could not defend for the life of them.
Going into this season all fans knew the Islanders were not going to be the best defensive team. They had multiple rookie defenders and had the likes of Dennis Seidenberg in their starting line up for the first game. Any team with Seidenberg in the lineup was not going to be successful. But things got worse when Calvin De Haan got injured. De Haan is arguably the Isles best defensemen. Over the course of the entire season the Islanders gave up 269 goals, THE MOST IN THE ENTIRE LEAGUE. There is not one defenseman that I can honestly say played solid defensively. Nick Leddy was a -42 on the season, which has to be the worst plus minus in the league. The only bright side of the D was the play of Ryan Pulock; as the season progressed he seemed to be the only defensemen to get better.
The combination of Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss was an absolute disaster. Halak went 20-26-6, and he had a GAA of 3.19 and a save percentage of .908. Halak was the better of the two goalies by far, as this season went on he played better. Greiss was painfully awful this season after signing a contract extension during the summer - Greiss went 13-8-2 but had a GAA of 3.82 and a save percentage of .892. This tandem was easily the worst in the league. There is a possibility that Greiss gets bought out during the summer. I do see Halak signing a 1-year deal with the team though.
At his first full season as head coach of the Islanders, Doug Weight did a horrible job. This team got blown out more times than I can count. Some games this team did not seem like they wanted to be there. I don’t blame Doug totally for this but some of the blame must be placed on him. Also, it is inexcusable how bad defensively this team was; from top to bottom no one could defend. You would think the coaching staff would change the defensive system at least once during the season, but it doesn’t seem that ever happened. Lastly, the way Doug Weight handled the media was an utter embarrassment. He should be ashamed the way he talked to Shannon Hogan and Stan Fischler. I do think Doug will be back but he is on my “Shit List”.
Overall, the 2017-2018 New York Islanders season was one with such promise going in but ended up being the opposite. Like every season there were ups and downs but this season stings. Thank you all for following along this season, hopefully better days to come on the Isles front.
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