By Andy Eide
With a 1-0 shutout of the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night, the New York Islanders extended their win streak to nine straight and remain the hottest team in the NHL.
Coming into the season the general consensus among the NHL pundits were that the Islanders could take a step back this season. They swung and missed on landing Artemi Panarin in this summer’s free agency spree and also lost goalie Robin Lehner at the same time.
Surely a team that relied on goaltending and defense would not be able to sustain the following year without any significant additions. It turns out that head coach Barry Trotz’ system has some longevity and the Islanders are flying with goaltending, defense, and timely scoring. The same formula that got them to the playoffs last year.
The New York tandem of Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov have picked up any slack that the Islanders may have lost with Lehner’s departure. Splitting starts, the pair have the Islanders with the league’s second-best five-on-five save percentage of .940.
Nine straight wins is the second longest streak in the history of the Islanders and the longest since the 1990 season. They have a ways to go to match the longest of 15 games back in 1982.
Here are the rest of the Weekly One Timers.
WOT 1 – While defense and goaltending is the backbone of the Islanders’ attack, they are getting offense from guys like Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey, and Brock Nelson. Former Seattle Thunderbird, Barzal, has been hot during the win streak. In the nine wins the 22-year-old has six goals and four assists. Not only is he scoring but he’s becoming a more complete player. He’s been on the ice for more scoring chances for than against as his defensive zone play continues to improve.
WOT 2 – The NHL injury bug continues to pop up early in the season. Last week we saw St. Louis Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko get sidelined for at least five months. That injury came a few days after Colorado lost Mikko Rantanen to an ankle injury. The Avalanche took another blow this week as Gabriel Landeskog is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury. Landeskog has 7 points for Colorado in his first 11 games and is coming off a career 34-goal year last season. His loss, along with Rantanen’s, is definitely a set back for the Avalanche, who had been able to boast one of the league’s top lines as those two played with Nathan MacKinnon. Colorado started the season hot but have lost two straight and are a modest 4-4-2 in its last ten games. Are the injuries starting to catch up?
WOT 3 – Future NHL Seattle rivals, the Vancouver Canucks, have been hot of late. Vancouver has won four of its last five, with an overtime loss at Anaheim the lone blemish. The Canucks are scoring a lot of goals. With 53 scores, they’re the second highest scoring club in the Western Conference and only the Washington Capitals have scored more across the league. Boston is the only team that has a goal differential equal to the Canucks, who have scored 19 more goals than allowed. Can Vancouver sustain this pace? They’re five-on-five shooting percentage is just under 10 and is one of the top in the league. That could slide a bit and if it does, they’ll need to continue to get the goaltending that Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko have provided so far.
WOT 4 – After Elias Pettersson opened the season with no points and a minus-2 there was a irrational wringing of the hands around the Canucks camp fire. Was the reigning Calder Trophy winner off to a sophomore slump? The 20-year-old Swede has put that talk to rest as he sits with six goals and 14 assists after 14 games. His production goes beyond goals and assists as he is also driving play for Vancouver. At five-on-five he has a 60-percent Corsi-for percentage and Vancouver has more than 20 scoring chances for than against with Pettersson on the ice. The nine points he piled up over the last four games earned him the NHL’s First Star of the week award and he’s climbed to sixth in the league scoring race. In his just his second season, he’s going to be a player that has the strong potential to be a pain in the side of NHL Seattle for years to come.
"There's four other guys on the ice when I'm out there, I'm not the first star by myself. The team helps make me look good." – @_EPettersson on being named the @NHL's 1st Star of the Week pic.twitter.com/K1EXubMY9i
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) November 4, 2019
WOT 5 – Vancouver’s latest victory was against the San Jose Sharks. It’s been a rough start for the Sharks, who find themselves at the bottom of the Western Conference Standings – something that we are not used to seeing. The glaring issue for San Jose is goals allowed. Only the Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings have allowed more and the goalie tandem of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell have struggled. San Jose has the second worst five-on-five save-percentage of .873. They’ve been an average possession team but are near the bottom of the league in shooting-percentage. Not scoring and not stopping the puck is not a good combination and its showing in the standings for San Jose.
WOT 6 – Are you a fan of coach’s challenges in the NHL? There have been 30 challenges so far in the NHL with 20 of them resulting in a reversed call. Offside has been the most successful challenge with 15 of the 16 ending in a no-goal call. There have been three challenges for ‘stoppage’ which is the new wrinkle in the NHL this season. This is where a team can challenge a hand pass, puck played with a high stick, or puck out of play. All three of these challenges have been upheld by the league which means so far the new rule has done nothing more than waste time. The Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche have requested the most challenges with three each while Boston has had a goal challenged against four times.
WOT 7 – Overtime three-on-three continues to entertain in the NHL and Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames pulled off an overtime goal for the ages last week. It was the run-of-the-mill last second, between the legs, top shelf goal. Is it too early to call it the goal of the year?
— NHL (@NHL) November 1, 2019