Like the rest of the NHL, the condensed and shortened 2021 schedule isn’t doing the Islanders any favors.
While they are currently on a streak of nine home games over a 10-game stretch, they are playing out the busiest 19-game schedule in team history, which is being completed in just 33 nights.
Tuesday night’s 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils was the team’s third game in four nights, yet the Islanders continue to churn out positive results as they are on a five-game point streak to go with a stretch that has seen them gain at least a point in 13 of their last 15 games.
“The games piled up on us emotionally,” head coach Barry Trotz said.
They’re now tied for first place in the Eastern Division with the Washington Capitals with three-straight games in four nights against the Buffalo Sabres at Nassau Coliseum on deck.
Buffalo is currently the worst team in the NHL with just 15 points in their first 20 games this season, but Trotz is ensuring the Islanders take nothing for granted in the stacked slate of games.
“This league tests you,” Trotz said. You cant dominate teams. You can dominate them for stretches of a game, but as coaches, we say your team gets a push, and you’re pushing for a while and then the other team is going to have a push. How you manage their best — it might be half a period, it might be five minutes, it might be a couple shifts. If you don’t manage them very well, you probably give up too much, and then you’re chasing the game a little bit.
“We’re learning to manage our not-so-good moments and we’re taking advantage of our good moments.”
Rookie right-winger Oliver Wahlstrom continued his rich run of form during Tuesday’s win over the Devils by notching the opening goal early in the third period. He ripped his now-patented wicked wrister on the rush and through traffic into the top corner of Aaron Dell’s net, further exhibiting just how much of an offensive threat he can be.
The 20-year-old now has three goals in his last four games and has accrued six points on a current five-game point streak.
“The great thing about that is that he’s being productive,” Trotz said, not just talking about the points he’s putting up. “[Wahlstrom’s line] is probably one of our better defensive lines lately so I’m just happy their whole game is growing. The trust continues to grow with me as well.”
When asked about Wahlstrom being playing a complete game on both ends of the ice, Trotz said it’s been “music to my ears, actually.”
“I’m just falling in love with the details of my game, the little details,” Wahlstrom said. “It’s helped me bring more enjoyment into the game and thinking less about production and focusing on the little details.”
Islanders captain Anders Lee potted his sixth goal in nine games for what proved to be the game-winner on Tuesday night in New Jersey. It brought him up to a team-leading 10 goals on the season in his 22nd game of the campaign.
The 30-year-old left-winger’s rediscovery of his scoring touch is drastic compared to last season as the former 40-goal scorer didn’t record his 10th tally of 2019-20 until the 34th game of the year.
“I’m seeing the same player that I saw in the [postseason] bubble,” Trotz said. “Very determined. He changed a bit of his training and that has helped. I think his line is maturing. [Mathew] Barzal continues to mature his overall game and [Jordan Eberle] is refining his game. But Lee has probably been our most consistent guy all year.”