The New York Islanders Take Center Stage
By JOSH ROTHSTEIN
During their final season playing at Nassau Coliseum, the New York Islanders are off to their best start in club history. With 39 wins and 22 losses, the team is in first place in the Metropolitan Division and fifth place in the National Hockey League.
Before the season started, General Manager Garth Snow made some savvy moves to signal that the Islanders were serious competitors. The first decision that Snow made was to trade a 4th round draft pick for the rights to sign Jaroslav Halak. The Slovakian born 29-year-old came out of a season with a .930 save percentage, a full .25 more than any goaltender on the Islanders roster from last season. To bolster the forwards, the Islanders signed free-agents Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin, each to 4-year contracts. In addition, Snow acquired two top defensemen: Nick Leddy from the Chicago Blackhawks, and Johnny Boychuk from the Boston Bruins. With major additions in all areas, the Islanders were ready to show the rest of the league that they belong with the elite teams.
The Islanders opened up their season with back-to-back wins against the Carolina Hurricanes. The team then made the short trip into Manhattan to play their arch-rival, the New York Rangers, in front of a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden. The Islanders silenced the Rangers fans with a dominating third period, scoring four straight goals and skating away with 6-3 victory–their third win in three games.
The Islanders made it to the end of October with a 6-4-0 record. Once November started, they notably swept a home-and-home series against the division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins. The Islanders finished the month with a record of 11-3-0 and 17-7-0 overall. The Islanders have continued to play well since then. In the division, they have a two-point lead over the arch-rival New York Rangers. As of February 8th, they have as many wins this season as they did throughout the entire season last year.
The stage is set–they have the skilled players and they have the loyal fans that want to see a fifth Stanley Cup victory at Nassau Coliseum. Based on their start to the season, the New York Islanders are not to be taken lightly come playoff time in April. From now until then, Islanders fans should savor every minute of the ride because times like these don’t usually come around too often for this team. Ladies and gentlemen, the New York Islanders are relevant.
-All stats are from Pro Hockey Reference