Are the New York Islanders the best team in the NHL?


(Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

By: Nathan Shield


With last night’s win over the Devils, the Islanders extend their point streak to 10 games and are an astounding 9-0-1 in those games. This along with their 17-6-4 record in the ultra-competitive East Division sparks the question, "Are the Islanders the best team in the NHL"


It’s hard to say no. The Islanders continue to prove people wrong and are on an absolute tear right now, proving the high-powered East Division is no match for them. So, what’s clicking for the Islanders?


Offense


The Islanders have proven this year to have some of the best offensive depth in the NHL. With Mat Barzal, Jean-Gabriel Pageua, Brock Nelson, and Casey Cizikis up the middle, the Islanders’ center depth is up there with the best in the NHL.


The emergence of Oliver Wahlstrom along with the consistent improvement of Anthony Beauvillier has brought a young spark to an already talented group. Veteran scoring has also been key for the Islanders with Matt Martin and Josh Bailey scoring timely goals and locking down defensively.


It’s also important to note the expected goal percentage (the difference between expected goals for versus expected goals against) for the Islanders’ offense is third in the NHL meaning the Islanders’ offense as a unit is playing efficient hockey in both the offensive and defensive zone.


Defense


As per usual with teams coached by Barry Trotz, their defense is their strong suit. The whole defense is playing great, but a few are standing out.


You can't talk about their defense this season without mentioning Noah Dobson. The 6’4 smooth skating 21-year-old defensemen has seen an increase in ice time as of late and has been making the most of it, scoring 12 points (3 goals, 9 assists) in 26 games with four points (2 goals, 2 assists) coming in his last five games.


This along with the contribution of Ryan Pulock (10 assists in 26 games), Adam Pelech (2 goals, 6 assists in 26 games) and the ever-improving Nick Leddy (1 goal, 15 assists in 26 games) has been a big part of the Islanders’ success.


Goaltending


Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the goaltending of Semyon Varlamov and new-comer Ilya Sorokin has been nothing short of remarkable.


Varlamov is off to one of the best starts in his ten-year NHL career. He is currently 11-7-0 and is currently third in the NHL in both GAA (2.03 GAA) and save percentage (.923 SV%) along with 3 shutouts.


Sorokin has been equally sharp in first year in the NHL after a decorated career in the KHL. Despite a slow start, Sorokin has been heating up and has a .933 SV% and a 1.40 GAA along with two shutouts in his last five games.


On top of this, both goaltenders have strong track records in the playoffs:

Varlamov has made two Eastern Conference Finals. Sorokin won the KHL’s Gagarin Cup in 2019 and has 50 career playoff wins in just 6 years, along with career playoff statistics of a 1.37 GAA, .940 SV% and 16 playoff shutouts.


This proven track record, along with the Islanders strength both offensively and defensively, means this not a team you want to run into come playoff time.