While the Islanders continue to try to figure out a way to “stop the bleeding” on defense, as Andrew Ladd put it after Thursday night’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Ducks, the top line of Anders Lee, John Tavares and Josh Bailey is providing plenty of reason to enjoy watching this Isles team.
Tavares and Bailey each had three points in the loss and were the two main reasons the Islanders overcame a pair of two-goal deficits. Tavares scored twice to tie Lee with 21 goals, third in the league, and Tavares had an assist on Mathew Barzal’s goal to give him 45 points, tied for second in the NHL.
And with whom was he tied? Steven Stamkos, for one, and Bailey, for the other.
Bailey entered Friday’s games leading the league with 35 assists. His 45 points through 35 games already are the second-highest for him in any of his 10 NHL seasons.
“They’re playing great, the line’s playing great,” Doug Weight said. “They’ve got it going on.”
Thursday’s totals marked five consecutive games in which both Tavares and Bailey have had multi-point games. Bailey has five goals and seven assists and Tavares has three goals and 10 assists in that span.
The problem, of course, is that the Islanders are 1-3-1 in those games. Barzal’s wizardry has slowed a bit during the past few weeks, particularly at even strength, and the young center was lunging on the back check unsuccessfully on Anaheim’s opening goal Thursday.
With the bottom two lines barely producing, that leaves the Tavares line to do all the scoring. That’s not a recipe for success, even as that line puts up astronomical numbers and brings the Islanders back from deficits on a regular basis.
“As a team, we feel that we can come back,” Bailey said. “It’s encouraging for sure, but we need to start playing with some leads.”