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The NHL season is almost a fifth of the way complete, and the New York Islanders are coming through thus far with the offensive jump they needed to stay competitive. Sitting at 9-5-0 after beating the Rangers last night, the Isles have a +13 goal differential and have been seeing points from everyone on the roster, lead currently by Barzal and Nelson at 15, and followed closely by Lee with 14.
To celebrate this beautiful and always-welcomed offensive burst, let’s take a look at the top five goals of the year so far, in no particular order. Feel free to roast me for my picks and let me know which ones you would have included!
Josh Bailey vs the Hurricanes
In his 1,000th game, Josh Bailey scored a game-winner in Carolina, against a Canes team we have historically struggled against. Considering the circumstances of the game and the fact that Bailey likes to only score filthy goals, this one was a no-brainer.
Romanov picks off a long pass by Sebastian Aho (their Aho), then dishes to Barzy on the left wing. He cuts quickly and passes to Bailey in the slot, who dangles Brady Skjei and then Frederik Andersen before finishing with a top titty backhand. What a play of patience and finesse, and what a game!
Matt Martin vs the Hurricanes
Earlier in that same game in Carolina, Matt Martin finishes what might be the most quintessential goal from this long-tenured fourth line of ours, giving the Isles the second lead of the night.
Cal Clutterbuck gets the puck in the Isles defensive zone, about ten feet from the blue line, and backhands it down to the Hurricanes zone. The puck is collected by Jalen Chatfield, and just as Butch is stating his dislike for that sort of flip play, Casey Cizikas rushes in to force the puck from the D-man and draws a penalty. While falling in front of Andersen, Cizikas slides the puck into the slot for Matt Martin, who had just hopped on the ice for a changing Pageau, and he snipes it top left from the slot.
Oliver Wahlstrom vs the Ducks
In the first win of the season, the Islanders pumped the Anaheim Ducks 7-1. Oliver Wahlstrom got his first goal of the year that night, which was one of only two goals scored by forwards (Beauvillier scored, as well).
While in our own zone, JG Pageau picks off a pass from the Ducks left defensemen, Dmitry Kulikov, and backhands it up the right wing to a speeding Wahlstrom for a breakaway. As he approaches the crease, Wally drags the puck from his forehand to his backhand and rips it top left on John Gibson. Skip to :40 seconds into this video for a fun angle of the goal.
Sebastian Aho vs the Flames
The Islanders have seemed to make a habit of waiting until the end of the game to come back and take the lead, and the game against the Calgary Flames was a great example of it. I heavily considered Dobson’s OT snipe for this list, but I though this play had a bit more pzazz.
The first Islander goal in that game, however, was scored to tie it up halfway through the first period when we were down only 1-0. Josh Bailey marches the puck into Calgary’s zone on the right wing, dropping the puck for Mat Barzal before skating to the net and taking a d-man with him. Barzal cuts to the middle then turns right to open up for a shooting threat. With all eyes on him, he manages to find Sebastian Aho sneaking into the slot. Barzy dishes it past three defending sticks to Aho, who exercises great patience before beating Jacob Markström on the left side for his first of the year. This play was all about the assist really. With his increase in shot attempts, opposing teams are forced to respect Barzal in that position, almost completely distracting them from other potential threats. He doesn’t have to score goals when he can create this much offense anyway (but they would be really nice to see).
Anders Lee vs the Rangers
Another comeback win for the Islanders came against the Rangers on Tuesday night at MSG. The boys entered the third period down 3-1, but halfway through that next period we had a tie game thanks to Brock Nelson and Adam Pelech.
With about six minutes to go, there is a battle on the left-side boards of the Rangers zone. Wahlstrom gets away with what some might call a trip (I wouldn’t, personally, at that stage of the game) right before the Rangers try to clear it. Alexander Romanov catches the clearing attempt at the point and quickly throws it in front to an unsuspected Anders Lee. All alone in front, Lee tucks a backhand past a flopping Igor Shesterkin (1-7-1 against the Islanders) to complete the comeback in a massive division win. GOTTA LOVE IT!