Islanders’ Win Streak At Four

It was euphoric at the Nassau Coliseum on Monday night when Brendan Witt scored his second goal of the game. It was at a fever pitch when he was going for his third. The 34-year-old defenseman notched his first career two-goal game, and despite missing the hat trick on an open net late in the third period, the Islanders’ stay at home d-man hit the final note on a 4-game win streak-symphony on the Island.

At 5-4-5 on the season, the Islanders now are 7th in the Eastern Conference and have 15 points after a dismal start that saw the team get only one regulation win against four losses and five overtime losses. Unlike the lowly Maple Leafs, who still only have one win on the season, the Islanders were able to stay fairly competitive until the win streak kicked in. Head Coach Scott Gordon’s “overspeed” system seems to be paying dividends early on: AHL-refugee Matt Moulson leads the team in points along with John Tavares, the first overall pick, who has lived up to every bit of pre-draft hype. Former first-rounder Kyle Okposo is one point behind Tavares and Moulson for the team lead, and has shown maturity and moves that belie his 21 years.

But the win streak, although a collective team effort (along with stellar goaltending from Martin Biron and Dwayne Roloson, who split time in net) could be called The Reemergence of Jeff Tambellini. The former-AHL stud and 27th overall pick in 2003 (by the L.A. Kings) who scored a record 76 points in 57 games in Bridgeport (AHL) in ‘07-08, is one goal behind his career high in the NHL. He’s already had more than half of his total points from last year (15) in only 9 games this season (he already has 8 this year).

Is it possible that the beleaguered winger finally has hit his stride? Perhaps. Gordon cites a Matt Moulson-esque mentality in Tambellini that has him driving to the net, shooting and converting more—he has had a stellar 24% of his shots go in the net so far. Capped off by his first career hat trick against the Sabres, Tambellini’s resurgence has been a revelation for the Isles. A genuine scoring threat, Tambellini’s confidence now seems to be overflowing; watching young Islanders like him, Tavares, Okposo, Moulson, and Frans Nielsen connect with hard nosed effort and often beautifully improvised and flashy plays, the Islanders have gone from a surefire repeat of basement dwellers to an exciting team in the course of a week and a half.

Captain Doug Weight, since returning from a bout with the flu, has made a noticeable difference in the surging Islanders’ game, often setting up drives to the net, especially from his linemates, Okposo and Tavares. Although the Islanders still have holes and haven’t proven they can keep up Gordon’s system over a full 60+ minutes, this progress has to be encouraging for the coaching staff. Despite last year’s first rounder Josh Bailey’s lack of production, a mediocre fourth line, and lack of production from the likes of Blake Comeau (a healthy scratch of late), it has been offset by solid offensive performances, an excellent defensive game by veteran Andy Sutton and Jack Hillen, and an improving Bruno Gervais.

As long as Gordon’s Isles continue to knock off good teams and get solid goaltending from Biron and Roloson until Rick DiPietro returns (sometime in late Novermber or early December), things are looking good for the upstart Islanders. For the first time in recent memory, there is good reason to be excited for the future of the oft-down and out team from Long Island.

By: Zach

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