By Jake Aferiat
While it may not be the current case, any true hockey fan can tell you that the New York Islanders are certainly a storied NHL franchise. They are the last professional sports team to win four consecutive championships, taking home 4 straight Stanley Cups from 1980-1983.
Dating back to the last 10 seasons, the Islanders have made the playoffs just twice and have managed a winning record just 3 times. A lot factored into that, and whether it was a roster that may have not been the most talented, or a subpar head coach, they were failing. However, over the last 3 seasons, and this one in particular, all of that has changed.
The Islanders are a very young team with players like John Tavares, Anders Lee, Griffin Reinhart, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, and Jaroslav Halak. Impressively, Tavares was the 1st overall pick in 2009 and since coming into the league, he’s been named an All-Star, Calder Trophy finalist. More importantly, he averages 60 points a season, and not to mention Tavares’ 45 points this season are ahead of Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Kane.
Conversely, Jaroslav Halak is a seasoned veteran. He’s the St. Louis Blues all-time leader in shutouts and his great goaltending is one of the reasons his GAA or goals against average is so low. Halak has let in 2.41 goals this season, good for 10th among goalies to win 20 games. Furthermore, in 2011 he won the award for having the lowest goals against average.
It hasn’t just been these two that have stepped up. Kyle Okposo is enjoying a breakout year, as he is only one point behind Tavares. The defense is also much improved. The Isles acquired Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk. Two players who are providing scoring and maintaining leads.
During the Islanders last playoff berth in 2012, they blew a lot of games when leading or scoring first . This year, not so much. When leading after 2 periods, the Isles have won 83% of their games.
Going back to scoring, the Islanders are second in goals per game and they also have 3 defenseman that rank among the top 50 in their position in scoring. With the Islanders’ new style of play, young talent, and new proven scoring outlets, they should remain a fixture atop the east for years to come.