The New York Islanders are surprisingly finding life without John Tavares quite pleasant. Instead of getting worse, they’ve actually gotten better and find themselves with a record of 23-13-1. All that gets you in the Eastern Conference is a tie with the Sabres for a wildcard. With 50 points, the Sabres and Islanders are tied, while the Canadiens are a point behind.
No, the Isles didn’t get better because they got rid of Tavares. They’ve just been able to reinvent themselves quickly, as they’ve gone from a hopeless team defensively to one of the better teams in just a year. Instead of relying on Tavares to come up with some magic to save the defence every night, the Isles have done a fine job of addressing what failed them a season ago. A lot of credit should be given to Robin Lehner as well. He’s saved his career in Brooklyn and has been one of the better goaltenders in the NHL this season. It’d be a wild ride if he can parlay this into a push at the Vezina towards the end of the season.
The Sabres gave up on Lehner, but he’s finding a home with the Islanders. Getting his mental health straight has seemed to help in more than one way. He’s having his best season in the NHL and he also got to defeat the team that gave up on him. The Isles topped the Sabres by a score of 3-1 on New Year’s Even and it was Lehner who led the way in that contest.
That win is just one win in a six-game winning streak for the Islanders. They are also winners in nine of their last ten games. We’ll see what they have in store for the Carolina Hurricanes, who are riding a four-game losing streak going into tonight. One streak will come to an end. Head below for our free Hurricanes vs. Islanders pick.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. N.Y. Islanders Pick
The Hurricanes have some catching up to do and one of the teams they’re going to have to catch is the Islanders. The Canes are 7 points behind the final wildcard. Averageness does not earn a playoff spot in the NHL, so despite their 19-17-5 record and four-game winning streak, they still have a mountain to climb in the second-half.
It’s tough to say whether they want to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, but even if they do go to the playoffs, what are they going to do against an elite team in the Eastern Conference? The Lightning would be heavy favourites. So, pulling the trigger on a Dougie Hamilton trade seems like the smart thing. By letting Jeff Skinner, they never planned on doing much this season anyway.
Curtis McElhinney has been their greatest surprise this season. A castaway from Toronto, McElhinney is playing the best hockey of his life in Raleigh. He has been impressive with a 2.20 GAA and 0.923 save percentage in a year that he was dumped just a few months ago by his former club. They’ve needed it, because the offence has struggled to play consistent hockey for the Canes.
On the road it’s gotten even shakier, with just 2.37 goals scored per game. And the Islanders have been locked in recently, allowing only 1.9 goals per game in their previous ten games. Lehner enters with a sharp 2.18 GAA and 0.927 save percentage on the year. At home it’s been better with a 1.94 GAA. The Hurricanes have played three times this season with an average of 3.6 goals scored. The UNDER has gone 4-1 in their previous five meetings. Look for a 3-2 game tonight to provide another winner on the UNDER between the Hurricanes and Islanders.