Islanders Veto Senators With The Youth Vote

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The New York Islanders, skating ten rookies in their lineup over the course of the last week, remained one of the hottest teams in hockey as they won their third straight game and fifth in their last six, defeating the Ottawa Senators 2-1 at the Canadian Tire Center.

It is almost ludicrous how this Islanders roster, stripped bare of one of the league’s best players in John Tavares plus a core group of their own top players that include the likes of Kyle Okposo, Lubomir Visnovsky and Michael Grabner, keeps winning to the tune of 7-2-1 over their last 10. 2 of those losses were to the San Jose Sharks (no shame there) and a throw away game against Matt Moulson and the Minnesota Wild (conspiracy perhaps?).

Some of the wins have been against teams that still harbor playoff aspirations such as the Vancouver Canucks. New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets as well as last night’s victim. So it’s hardly a question of teams not playing their best and giving the Islanders anything they have not earned.

Josh Bailey continues his late season surge as he looks to regain the confidence that has been absent for the entire season, picking up a power play goal in addition to assisting on the game-winner scored by Casey Cizikas, also with the man advantage. Bailey, who played in his 400th NHL game, has picked up 6 points in his last 5 games.

Ryan Strome also is maturing as a 20-year-old, picking up 2 more special team assists and Matt Donovan now has collected 3 points in his last 4 games from the blue-line as he seems to be taking advantage of the short-handed roster, collecting big minutes and learning each game to limit his mistakes while being the offensive defenseman this team needs.

Anders Nilsson seems intent on becoming a true National Hockey League goaltender as well. Sidelined with a mysterious but later identified illness two years ago, the  24-year-old Swede has recovered brilliantly from the debacle against Minnesota, stopping 82 of 88 shots over his next 3 starts (.932 save percentage).

Since Tavares went down with a knee injury suffered at the Olympics, New York is 9-5-2. Other interesting notes of record, as pointed out by Chris McNally on Twitter,  the Islanders are 5-0-1 without Brian Strait and 8-3-2 since Andrew MacDonald was traded.

Tough to determine why they seem to have figured it out so late in the season once again, leaving absolutely no chance at the playoffs but at the very least, we get to enjoy some hard-working, gritty hockey from this team of young men who are no doubt battling for jobs in September.

And who knows…with games on the schedule to close out the 2013-14 season against Washington, Columbus, Ottawa, Montreal, New Jersey and Buffalo, it’s quite conceivable that this band of adolescents ends up at .500 by the time all is said and done.

 

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