By: Jack Fenty
Ah, it’s that time of year again on Long Island, the air is cooler, the fall foliage is forming, and another New York Islanders season awaits… Welcome to the 2018-19 season Isles fans.
With John Tavares the Isles finished 8th in the league in offense last season, one spot ahead of the eventual Stanley Cup Champs, the Washington Capitals. Out of the top 18 teams in goals for 16/18 made the playoffs, the only teams that didn’t the Islanders and Panthers. So, what does this mean for this season? I do expect a little regression from the Isles offense, but this team will still score a lot of goals and will rank in the top half of the league. There are two main factors that play into that and that’s without even mentioning the loss of John Tavares.
1. High scoring games.
If the Islanders want any chance to make the playoffs, they must tighten up their defense. While we will get into the defense later in this blog, the defensive play effects the numbers on offense as well. The Isles having to put up five goals a night last year was ridiculous. The Islanders had to score 4+ goals to even have a chance to win games. This was after giving up usually more than 3 goals a night which inflated the goals for on this team. A better defensive system will likely have the Islanders playing more conservative and trying not win games 6-5, but to win them 3-2.
2. Third-Fourth lines.
We know what the top two lines will look like Bailey-Barzal-Beauviller and then Eberle-Nelson-Lee. Oh man are those top two lines sexy, but the problem is a good hockey team has depth scoring and this team going into opening night does not. We also know one of the bottom two lines will be Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck, while we all love this line they are not going to be putting up many points. The other bottom two line will most likely be Komarov-Filppula-Fritz. Yikes, that second line I listed is sub-par at best. Those three guys put up only 59 points combined last season and now they are playing on the same line! The lack of scoring depth will hurt this team in the opening weeks of the season.
As just stated above the Islanders top two lines are great and I believe they can compete with any teams top two lines the league. The biggest problem for me is that “Komarov-Filpulla-Fritz” line. If this line struggles out of the gate I would love to see Josh Ho-Sang and Keiffer Bellows get called up from Bridgeport and potentially play with Filpulla or Komarov as their center. It’s simple, a successful team needs depth scoring and as of opening night the Islanders do not have it.
There is no denying the coaching staff’s defensive system sucked last year, but I mean c’mon a system can only be so bad. The Islanders finished dead last in goals against last season with 296. The good news is the players on defense have changed! Oh, wait no they haven’t. The Islanders will most likely be starting the season with Leddy-Hickey, Sbisa-Boychuk, and Pelech-Pulock with Scott Mayfield and Devon Toews being the odd-men out. If you ask me this is pretty horrific top six defenseman, the only two guys I can somewhat trust are Leddy and Pulock. Speaking of Ryan Pulock, this guy is going to have a monster season and turn into this team’s best defenseman. On the other hand, Boychuk and Sbisa are truly just to slow for the “young man’s game”. (I do love Johnny by the way).
Overall, the defense literally cannot get any worse than it was last year so that’s a plus. I’m hoping with the implementation of Barry Trotz’s new system the D will at least know where to go on the ice. I also think Devon Toews will be on this team within two weeks if he is sent down to Bridgeport before the season starts. Look in the end if the Isles can let hold opposing teams to 2-3 goals a lot the offense will hopefully take care of the rest.
I really don’t have much to say about Lehner and Greiss. I’m praying that Lehner can emerge as the true number one and can put together a solid season. A solid season from these guys would go a long way for the success of this team. However, for the start of the season I expect Lehner to be the starter and Greiss to be the backup.
Barry Trotz won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals last June and now he is the coach of the New York Islanders. Trotz will have an immense impact on this team. The experience and pedigree alone will bring a lot to a lock room that is lacking playoff success. Also, stated above the defensive system Trotz will bring in should really help this club. Lastly, unlike last year I am expecting Trotz to hold players accountable
While this blog might have seemed quite negative it was not meant to be. I really am just giving my honest opinion on the team I love. With that being said I am going to blow your minds with the prediction I am about to make…I believe the New York Islanders will sneak into the 2018-19 playoffs. Why? I think with how solid the top two lines are and the hopefully young third line that can be, the Islanders offense will be once again lethal. Also, the defense will be improved which will hopefully translate into the goaltending being better. Overall, the New York Islanders will finish 4th in the Metro Division and will just slide into the postseason.
And with that I leave you with “Let’s Go Islanders”.
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