Graziano: It's Getting Hard To Explain Islanders' Success

By WFAN Sports Radio 101.9 FM/66AM New York

It’s getting hard to explain just what is going on with the New York Islanders at this point. So much talk in the past about the state of the organization has been about follies on and off the ice conspiring to bring a once-proud franchise to its knees. But then along came Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky. Then came Lou Lamoriello. Then came Stanley Cup champion Barry Trotz. Finally, there was an announcement on groundbreaking at Belmont Park, now, there’s all this winning. It’s been so much winning that it’s almost too good to be true.

Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, once again, was a thriller between the Islanders and Penguins. New York scored twice in the final five minutes and won in overtime on a Brock Nelson tally. The Isles are now on an incredible 14-0-1 run, a 15-game point streak for the first time in 37 years, courtesy of Eric Hornick. 

Over their past three games, it’s been unconventional also, hasn’t it? The team has conceded 11 goals against, but tallied 14 goals for. There were huge, late comeback wins, first in Philadelphia, now in Pittsburgh. Everyone keeps talking about how the Washington Capitals, 16-3-4 (8-1-1 last 10) won’t lose, they better start talking about the Islanders, who have now not lost a game in regulation time since October 11 and sit five points off the NHL lead, but with four games in hand.

Two goals and a helper for Nelson along with a +4, Nick Leddy was a +5 and collected three assists. Even when the goaltending makes Piero Greco and Mitch Korn scratch their collective head, the offense is there to provide a “don’t worry fellas, you’ve bailed us out enough, we got this.” I don’t know what to make of it, honestly, and nobody at the start of the season could have predicted such a run, even with a crystal ball.

Last season, I thought the Eastern Conference was there for the taking and the Islanders had a real shot after sweeping the Penguins in the first round and seeing the Lightning go out unexpectedly, this season might be more of the same. Only the Islanders are another year advanced under the tutelage of Trotz and another year more experienced.

Mathew BarzalPhoto by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

They now have collected a remarkable 81.5% of all possible points through 19 games. To put that in perspective, even if they go .500 the rest of the way, garnering 63 points, they would finish with 94. For a team that didn’t lose more than two straight in regulation time last season, we all know that isn’t happening. With this early season run to the bank to deposit points, the Islanders have put themselves in an outstanding position to return to the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

While you might think it’s too early to be speaking in such terms, and you might have a viable argument, remember I’m strictly basing that on the insane amount of points they have been able to accumulate to this point, setting themselves up well to absorb anything the long, grueling 82-game sked might throw at them the rest of the way.

The players are likely even running out of things to say to describe the streak, answering in such even tones Trotz has set for them. “It’s a long season.” “We’re playing well, but have to continue to keep our heads.” “There’s a long way to go.” Remember, Trotz is a man who, after the 5-4 win over the Maple Leafs last week, might as well have been talking about an 8-2 loss.

Tuesday was slightly altered. “I knew when it got to 4-2, I thought from that standpoint, there was pretty good belief. We just had to get to within one and take our chances,” the coach said postgame.

Just think, if the Islanders had not had lost last week to these same Penguins, when they were up 3-0 after two, they would have tied their longest winning streak in franchise history at 15 games tonight. This is historic stuff here, folks. That’s what we are talking about, stuff that hasn’t happened in over 35 years. The Elias Sports Bureau says these Islanders are the first team in NHL history to win back-to-back games, after trailing by multiple goals in the last seven minutes of the third period in each game. Things are happening that are almost unexplainable at this point. 

Maybe searching high and low to try and explain it isn’t the answer. Why not just sit back and enjoy it? 

You can follow Andy on Twitter @AndyGraz_WFAN