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5 Takeaways: The First 21 Games

Looking at the Islanders 12-7-2 start to the season

by Cory Wright WrightsWay / New York Islanders

A quarter of the way through the season, the Islanders are 12-7-2 with 26 points, currently occupying the third spot in the Metropolitan Division.

A good start was a team focus, especially given how last season's slow start - 7-10-4 through 21 games - cost them at the end of the season. The Islanders are already ahead of last season's pace, getting to 12 wins in 21 games, as opposed to 32 games from last season. 

There's a lot to like about the Islanders through the first 21 games of the season, from the increase in scoring, their ability to consistently bank points and the emergence of Mathew Barzal. Here are five takeaways from the first quarter of the season. 


The Islanders are one of the highest-scoring teams in the NHL at the quarter mark, averaging 3.62 goals-per-game, second in the NHL behind Tampa Bay (3.90). The Islanders are also fourth in even strength goals, as 49 of their 76 goals have come five-on-five. 

The Islanders had 72 goals through their first 20 games, their most goals in the opening 20 since the 1987-88 season. They've scored five or more goals nine times in the first 20 and are 12-2-0 when scoring three or more. 

"We have an offense that on most nights can put in three," Anders Lee said. "We have to take advantage of the opportunities and close games out and separate ourselves soon here."

Video: Mathew Barzal's Five-Assist Night


Mathew Barzal has been a revelation for the Islanders early on this season.  

He leads all rookies in assists (15) and is second in points (20) through 21 games, though all of his points have come in the last 16 games. He's a gifted playmaker who can create with his speed, passing and vision and has game-breaking potential as his five-assist night against Colorado - an Isles rookie record - showed. 

"The emergence of a guy like 13 makes us a better team," defenseman Thomas Hickey said. "You never know how first-year players are going to be and I think we're deeper in all positions than anyone would have thought and that's a good sign."

Barzal has anchored the team's second line and has been a catalyst for Jordan Eberle, who has scored all seven of his goals after taking Barzal's wing. Barzal and Eberle have developed early chemistry and given the Islanders a reliable offensive presence behind the Tavares line.


John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Anders Lee have picked up right where they left off last season. 

Bailey leads the team in assists (21) and points (26) while Tavares is first on the team with 15 goals. Bailey is second in the NHL in assists and is eighth in scoring, while Tavares is second in goals and is tied for 12th. Anders Lee is tied for 10th in the NHL in goals (10) and is tied for 20th with 22 points. 

After going six-of-seven games without a point to start the season, Tavares has been on a roll, with seven multi-point games - including two hat tricks - in his last 14 games. Lee and Bailey are both averaging over a point-per-game for the first times in their careers. 

Video: Greiss, Lee lead Isles to 5-2 win over Blues


The Isles haven't gone two straight games without a point and have followed up their worst losses - shutouts in Columbus and Dallas - with six-goal efforts against Buffalo and St. Louis. The Islanders are 10-4-1 in their last 15 games, rebounding from a 2-3-1 start. 

"We've done a pretty good job of rebounding after losses," Lee said. "There's a lot of parity in this league and you have to able to rebound after games and come back stronger and learn from your mistakes and right now we're doing a good job of staying on the same page and continuing to build on what we've done."

Resiliency has been a trademark of the Doug Weight era. The Islanders have lost eight games by three or more goals under Weight, but have responded with a win in their next game every time. The ability to bounce back - this season - has helped them stay afloat in a tight Metropolitan Division where seven points separate first from eighth. 


The Islanders are unbeaten in regulation at home this season, going 7-0-2 at Barclays Center. It's the team's best home start since the 1978-79 season (7-0-1) and there are a lot more home dates coming up when the calendar flips to December.


The Islanders still have a long way to go - 61 games - before the end of the regular season. The focus now is to build off a good first quarter by tightening up a few areas. 


The Islanders are scoring a lot of goals early on this season, but are giving up nearly as many. Their 3.24 goals-allowed is the eighth-most in the NHL and tightening up defensively is one of Doug Weight's top priorities. 

Weight said he wants to hear more communication and see more tracking in the defensive zone, which he addressed at Tuesday's practice. 

"We're not going to average four goals a game," Weight said. "There's tight spots in the league, now we're starting to play inter-conference games… teams are going to start to buckle down, we are going to start to see some close battle games that we have to win at the end." 

"It's great to score three-and-a-half, but we have to stop giving up three plus," Weight added. "That'll be the main focus going forward. 

Tweet from @NYIslanders: Practice time! #Isles


The Islanders special teams are trending in the right direction after a slow start in October, but both the players and coach see room for further improvement. 

The power play has hit both extremes in the first quarter of the season, going 2-for-33 (6.1%) with five shorthanded goals against in the first 10 games (seven through the first 20). Over the last 11 games, the power play is 14-for-41 (34.1%), though that's in part due to a blistering 9-for-16, four-game stretch. The power play is heating up again with goals in four straight, but finding consistency is a key going forward. 

The penalty kill has hovered around 80% this season, which has the Islanders squarely in the middle of the pack. Weight said he'd like to see it become a game-changer, even if it hasn't cost the Islanders too many times this season.  

"We'd like to have some significant stops in those big games," Weight said of the PK. "That happens when you roll over some personnel, some injuries occur, it's tough. Special teams can always be better.

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