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Why They Will Win

Why Islanders will win Stanley Cup

Championship team built on Tavares, solid defense

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

The New York Islanders changed addresses prior to the start of the season, moving from Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum to Barclays Center. This fall, they'll have their first Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony in Brooklyn.

The Islanders returned virtually the same roster from last season, when they won 47 games and pushed the Washington Capitals to the limit in the opening round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was a testament to Islanders general manager Garth Snow that he believed in his core, which has been built piece-by-piece since the 2008 NHL Draft. 

New York perhaps didn't finish as high as it would have liked in the Metropolitan Division standings, but the Islanders have improved in several areas.

Their penalty kill, which ranked 26th a season ago, is among the best in the NHL. Their goals allowed per game average has been trimmed from 2.73 last season to roughly 2.5 in 2015-16.

It begins with captain John Tavares, who scored 30 goals for the third time in his career and continues to grow as a leader. He also picked up his game offensively during the final two weeks of the season, a good sign heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Video: TBL@NYI: Tavares beats Bishop's five-hole for PPG

Two other key forwards among the top six -- Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen -- can become unrestricted free agents in July, which should only fuel them to perform this spring. The more they produce in the playoffs, the wealthier each is likely to become. Okposo reached 60 points for the second time in his career; Nielsen surpassed 50 and remains New York's best two-way center.

The blue line continues to be anchored by Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk. Each won the Stanley Cup before arriving in New York prior to last season; Leddy helped the Chicago Blackhawks win a championship in 2013, two years after Boychuk hoisted the Cup with the Boston Bruins.

Their workloads will increase while Travis Hamonic heals from a lower-body injury sustained March 31, but they'll receive help from Calvin de Haan, who was among the League's top shot blockers. Hamonic was skating in full gear by the last weekend of the season, suggesting his return could be imminent.

A backup goaltender was the top priority for the Islanders last summer, and they shored up the position with the signing of Thomas Greiss, who may have exceeded expectations by winning more than 20 games for the first time in his career. Greiss will get the call at the start of the playoffs; Jaroslav Halak has been out since sustaining a lower-body injury March 8.

It won't be easy given the parity in the NHL, but the Islanders have the pieces and will win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1983.

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