Lightning can’t stop Islanders, the NHL’s hottest team
The New York Islanders are just about undeniably the hottest team in the NHL right now, so it’s fitting that they took care of business against the team that rampaged through the 2018-19 regular season.
The Islanders beat the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 5-2 on Friday night, extending the Isles’ 2019-20 season-best winning streak to a remarkable eight games. The Isles are already in spitting distance of last season’s best run, when the St. Louis Blues rattled off 11 consecutive wins.
If you look at certain raw stats, you might believe that the Islanders simply got lucky.
The Lightning managed a significant 35-26 shots on goal advantage, and also carried things from a Corsi/Fenwick/etc. perspective.
Yet, as you might deduce from this in-depth look at the Islanders’ streak when it was seven-games long last weekend, things seem to be going by Barry Trotz’s design. Consider that, while the Islanders didn’t own all of the possession metrics against the Lightning, the Isles did manage a substantial 9-5 edge in high-danger chances at five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick.
The Islanders also employ Mathew Barzal, who can do things like this on his way to scoring a goal and an assist against the Bolts:
This Islanders team isn’t just relying on Barzal, mind you, as lead-by-example captain Anders Lee led the team in scoring with three points on a goal and two assists.
While Trotz’s system will earn deserved plaudits, Thomas Greiss’ continued brilliance shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle. He’s now on a personal four-game winning streak after stopping 33 out of 35 Lightning shots, and the 33-year-old has allowed only eight goals total during that span. Greiss was almost as fantastic as Robin Lehner last season, sporting a .927 save percentage over 43 games. So far, he’s off to an even better start.
There’s a broken record aspect to this, but you have to think that, at some point, the Islanders won’t continue to enjoy this borderline interstellar goaltending on such a regular basis, even behind Trotz’s comfy-blanket system. Then again, the longer this goes on, the harder it gets to make that argument.
If nothing else, the Islanders are providing themselves some room to slip ever so slightly. Yes, we saw the Buffalo Sabres squander a big winning streak last season by missing the playoffs - badly - so it’s important to remember that this is a marathon, rather than a sprint. That said, many other NHL teams are eating the Islanders’ dust, and with a four-game homestand looming after the Islanders visit the Sabres in Buffalo on Saturday, the Isles might get off to an even bigger head start through the middle of the month.