Since my last blog on December 8th, I have helped co written a few other pieces with colleagues of mine, but I needed to take a step back and really watch a few games on the Islanders. The last 10 games were significant because it has marked the halfway mark of the Islanders season. That's right folks, the Islanders have played in 40 games and it is still not January yet. I have seen some nice surprises in the last 10 games that had allowed the Islanders to finish 4-6. Kyle Okposo, despite only 1 goal, had 7 assists for 8 points. But it was Blake Comeau who emerged from the "healthy scratch" list to the first line and managed a respectable 3 goals, 3 assists for 6 points. Others like Tavares and Moulson were okay, but noticeably absent the last few games. When you play 40 games and it is still December, you can let them slide every once in a while.
On the defensive side, in my opinion, the bright spot is Andrew MacDonald. The notion that he has the ability to play in the NHL and beat out Freddy Meyer for a spot, is something fans should be happy about. Both MacDonald and Hillen are showing that they could have a nice future on Long Island and that Garth Snow and Co. are making good choices in free agents and drafting....so far.
So now it's down to the heart of this blog. After 40 games, the Islanders are on pace for 76 points. For now, that is better than what most were predicting. What excites me is that I thought the Islanders should make 80 points their goal for this rebuilding season. What excites me more is that I believe that the Islanders will have a better second half then first without making any significant changes to the roster. The Islanders need to get a few players back and a few to improve to get the Islanders to finish the season with 80 points.
As the Islanders start the second "half" of the season, Kyle Okposo, John Tavares and Matt Moulson should not have to relied upon to carry this team. When Jeff Tambellini scores a goal, the Islanders are 2-0-2. The problem is Jeff has only scored in four games. A recent, resurgent Blake Comeau has the Islanders going 4-0, but has the same problem Tambellini has, not scoring in enough games. When Trent Hunter scores, the Islanders have a 71 percent chance of getting at least one point. These three players must continue to or pick up there games for the Islanders and let the younger players develop at there own pace. If the younger players produce, it's only a bonus.
The return of Bergenheim will also play a contributing factor. When Sean scores a point, the Islanders are 7-2-2. I'll even include old man Doug Weight scoring and the Islanders are 3-1-1. If there could be a return of the defense getting on the goal-scoring sheet that seem to be shooting pucks into the Bermuda Triangle lately, it will certainly take less pressure off the goalies, but the goalies will be for another blog.
Here is the bottom line. The Islanders had a better than expected first half. I expect the Islanders to be better in the second half for various reasons and if anything else, will play major spoilers at the end of the year. If the Islanders can continue to play at a 75-80 point pace for the rest of the season, the Islanders second year of it's rebuild will be a success. However, if the Islanders surpass 80 points this season, it means that it only took Snow two years to get them back where they were when Bill Geurin was captain for the first time in his career and the Islanders finished with 79 points.