The Achilles' heel of the New York Islanders for the past decade has been goaltending and defense. But general manager Garth Snow bolstered each of those positions with offseason trades, which is why the Islanders will win the Stanley Cup.
The last time New York made the playoffs, two seasons ago, they were ousted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round in six games, mainly because they allowed 25 goals, including at least four goals in five of the games.
In order to ensure that won't happen again, Snow traded for goalie Jaroslav Halak in May and signed him to a four-year contract. Halak rewarded that faith with an Islanders record for wins in a season (37) and a half-dozen shutouts.
Halak had some help from a revamped defense led by Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy, who were acquired a few days before the season and have been the shutdown defensive pair. Defenseman Travis Hamonic had a breakout season.
You won't win games if you can't score, and the Islanders have that covered. John Tavares set career highs in goals (38) and points (86), and the Islanders have scored three goals per game (which ranks in the top five in the League). Brock Nelson and Anders Lee each has 20-plus goals.
The penalty kill, which started out as a weakness, came on strong in the past month. The Islanders finished the season exceptionally strong, killing 39 of 42 penalties during their final 18 games.
Finally, the Islanders will win the Stanley Cup because of how well they have played at home this season, their final one at Nassau Coliseum, where they won the Stanley Cup twice during their four-Cup dynasty in the early 1980s. New York finished with 25 wins at home for the first time since 2003-04.
"The way [the fans have] supported us this year, the way they've filled up the Coliseum all year and all season, it's been really special for them and us," Lee said prior to a game earlier in the season.
It could end up being a memorable ending to the Islanders season on Long Island.