The Islanders aren’t a team synonymous with winning over the past decade. In fact, they haven’t made the playoffs since 2007 and haven’t won a playoff series since 1993. The last time the team started 3-1 was 07-08, so the fans aren’t used to good starts. But with the good, young group of players the team has a very bright future. And it’s possible that future might be closer than people realized.
John Tavares was drafted first overall in 2008 to be the cornerstone of the revitalization of the Islanders franchise. In his first two seasons in the NHL, he hit 24, 29 goals and 57, 69 points. This season, after signing a 6 year, $33 million deal, Tavares seems to hit another gear, scoring five goals and eight points (both second in the league) in just four games. Against the crosstown rival Rangers, he scored three goals (including the game winner), two of them on the powerplay, as well as an assist. Two nights prior, he torched the Lightning for four points (two goals, two assists).
It’s not all Tavares doing all the scoring, either. His linemates Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau have combined for three goals and eleven points so far. Moulson is coming off a 31 goal season and Parenteau hit the 20 goal mark for the first time in his career, so they are no strangers to the scoresheet. Calder Trophy finalist Michael Grabner only has one goal so far, but had 34 last season, so one would expect him to find the net. The promising Nino Niederreiter is on the injured list, and when he comes back, he should get decent playing time.
The big improvement for the Islanders has been in net. Four games into the season, the team has only allowed 6 goals. Their +5 goal differential is third best in the league. Last season, the team used six different goaltenders before settling on Al Montoya. That didn’t include the Evgeni Nabokov circus that happened. This season, Montoya has continued his good play (2-1, 1.35, .953) from last season when he went 9-5-5 with a 2.35 GAA and .921 save percentage. Montoya was acquired when Rick DiPietro and Kevin Poulin were injured and has shown why he was a first round pick in 2004. Evgeni Nabokov also agreed to honor his contract and play for the Isles, after sitting out the second half of last season. In his New York debut, he made 29 saves on 31 shots in a win over the Rangers.
The season is barely two weeks old, and the Islanders haven’t even played a road game yet, but this might be the season they surprise and sneak their way into the playoffs.