Happy 2021 to all. The promise of a new year calls for some bold takes. The New York Islanders are fresh off an Eastern Conference Finals appearance and are looking to build off that run for the 2021 season. No doubt, the pause, due to the pandemic, helped their situation with some of their key players coming back from injury: (Casey Cizikas, Adam Pelech, Johnny Boychuk) & additions from the trading deadline (Andy Greene & Jean-Gabriel Pageau). They managed to shock the hockey world. Prior to the pause, the Boys Of The Isle were just fighting for a chance to get in as they were looking from the outside. They had 80 points (35-23-10), & were out of the playoff picture.
Most of the Islanders success is due to head coach Barry Trotz bringing his defensive first structure. Make no mistake, there is no individual that is having a me first attitude as the group is the sum of all its parts. The Islanders’ faithful are looking for a return to the playoffs in an albeit 56 game hockey season. The Isles will go up against their division opponents eight times. Every game will matter for the top four teams from each division will make the playoffs. No big offseason moves from the Isles so what you see is what you get. Fasten your seatbelts for the upcoming season and here are five bold predictions for the upcoming season.
The Islanders Will Compete For A Playoff Run
For the past two seasons, the Islanders have come off deep playoff runs. Part of it is how good and physical the Isles can be on the defensive side of the puck. The Isles have been first & sixth in goals against. The question isn’t their defense but can they score. They have also ranked 21st and 23rd respectively scoring the past two seasons and their numbers on the power play have been abysmal in the regular season. It’s all about getting to the big dance and as long the Islanders still have that defensive structure, they’ll be competitive.
Noah Dobson Will Get Top Four Defenseman Minutes
Last season, Noah Dobson got his chance at the NHL at 20 years old. In his limited time on the ice, Dobson was the Islanders’ seventh defenseman, logging 13:17 per game in 34 games while having some veteran presence guiding him along the way in Johnny Boychuk & Andy Greene. Dobson will be thrown into the fire now with Boychuk and Devon Toews out of the fold as Dobson will be given a opportunity to play regularly. Lou Lamoriello has been positive on Dobson and will be a contributor to the Islanders not only for this season but for seasons to come.
The Islanders Will Be A Very Good Team On The Second game Of Back To Backs
The Islanders have the third least amount of back-to-backs in the league with eight. The Isles record the past two years on the second games of a back to back are 15-2-1 (not including playoffs). The question will be the depth of the Islanders as they have capable players to fill in and know their role but a few Islanders have shown that they are iron men as six skaters played in every game last season and each extended their ironman streaks. Anders Lee (268), Brock Nelson (245), Mathew Barzal (232), Ryan Pulock (195), Josh Bailey (153), and Anthony Beauvillier (143).
The captain moved into the fourth-place in franchise history for consecutive games played, while Brock Nelson and Mathew Barzal have also moved into the top 10:
1. Billy Harris 10/7/1972 -11/30/1979 (576)
2. Bob Nystrom 1/7/1975 – 11/25/1978 (301)
3. Matt Moulson 10/3/2009 – 4/4/2013 (284)
4. Anders Lee 1/26/2017 – CURRENT (268)
5. Denis Potvin 11/29/1975 – 1/17/1979 (262)
6. John Tavares 10/16/2010 – 12/23/2013 (246)
7. Brock Nelson 3/16/2017 – CURRENT (245)
8. J.P. Parise 1/7/1975 – 1/7/1978 (240)
9. Mathew Barzal 10/6/2017- CURRENT (232)
10. Richard Park 10/5/2006 – 2/18/2009 (221)
Impressive numbers for sure but the Islanders need that next man mentality now more than ever which leads to my 4th bold prediction.
Ilya Sorokin Will Have 15 Wins
The White Whale has officially been spotted on Long Island as Ilya Sorokin is battling for a goaltender position for the Islanders. The phenom goalie from Russia is something that the Islanders haven’t had from the goalie position in a long time and that’s promise, potential and youth. Sorokin is 25 years old, he’s talented and with the Isles having goalie coaches Piero Greco & Mitch Korn raising the playing level of Thomas Greiss, Robin Lehner and Semyon Varlamov; Sorokin is due for a breakout campaign. Add to the fact that it’s a shortened season and he’s splitting time with Varlamov makes it a winning situation Sorokin to come in and compete.
The Islanders’ Power Play Will Be A Top 15 Unit
That’s right. You heard it here. The Islanders man advantage will be good. Mat Barzal was very good at drawing penalties & that was pretty much about it until JG Pageau came to the Island. Hockey is more than putting the puck in the net. It’s about winning faceoffs, making the quick pass and of course putting shots on net. Especially on the man advantage. Pageau can do all of that as the Islanders 2nd power play center.
The Islanders should Ryan Pulock with his one timer on the dots during the power play a-la Alex Ovechkin. and possibly see the Isles play more of that 1-3-1 style on the power play more often. The Isles have the big bodies in Lee & Nelson in the slot on the first power play. It worked in the Penguins playoff series in 2019 & worked in the playoffs last season. The Islanders have definitely felt like they have drawn more, but haven’t got the the calls from the officials the past two seasons. They should have plenty of new plays set up by Jim Hiller for when they start to get some opportunities to build on.