The New York Islanders are having a great season.
After 53 games played, the New York Islanders are first in the Metropolitan Division and third in the Eastern Conference. Overall, they own a 31-16-6 record and have been dominating over their last ten games. In their last ten games, they’ve only lost one game in regulation. The other two losses have come in overtime/shootout.
In addition, the Islanders have the lowest Goals Against Average (GAA) in the National Hockey League. Currently, they own a 2.19 GAA. But, it’s worth noting that the Islanders have been at their best defensively when playing 5v5 hockey. When they are down a man or two, their penalty kill units aren’t as strong as their 5v5 defensive units. At this moment, they own an 80.3 Penalty Kill Percentage (PK%). Their PK% is decent, but it’s not too impressive. They rank 15th in PK%.
Who Has Been Leading The Charge?
When you see a team doing well in the defensive zone, you typically look at their defensive core to determine who has been the most pivotal. Oddly enough, the Islanders defense hasn’t been that great. Devon Toews is the only defenseman that has a Corsi-for Percentage (CF%) higher than 50%. But while Toews has done well, he’s only played in 19 games. He could be the best Islander defenseman at the end of the season, but at the moment it’s difficult to give him that title. His sample size is too small.
Instead, the true defensive rockstar has been goaltender Robin Lehner. In 29 games played, Lehner owns a 2.02 GAA and a .932 Save Percentage (SV%). He hasn’t owned a GAA this low since his 2011-2012 campaign with the Ottawa Senators. But, it’s worth noting that he only played in five games that season. All-in-all, Lehner was a great off-season addition by general manager Lou Lamoriello and he’s paid off so far.
Additionally, in the Tableau visual (created by Tyler Kelley, @dockelley41) below, you can see how well Lehner has been doing this season in comparison to last season with the Buffalo Sabres. Lehner has improved in many categories including Delta Save Percentage (dSv%), High Danger Save Percentage (HDSv%) and Mid Danger Save Percentage (MDSv%).
visual created by Tyler Kelley
Who They Might Look To Add?
Unfortunately, Lehner can’t do it all and the Islanders front office should look to add to their defense core at the NHL’s Trade Deadline.
The Islanders could look to trade for Alec Martinez, Dougie Hamilton and/or Colton Parayko at the deadline. If Lamoriello can add one of those defensemen, he’d bolster his defensive core and make it much stronger. If I were in Lamoriello’s loafers, I’d look to trade for Hamilton. Hamilton’s name has been floating around in rumours and yet he’s still an outstanding defenseman. So far this season, he has 9 goals, 12 assists, a 59.2 CF% and a 19:37 average time on ice (ATOI).
If Hamilton joins the Islanders prior the deadline, the club will be much stronger and could be a tough competitor come playoff time.
stats from NHL.com, hockey-reference.com, corsicahockey.com
featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals