After the NHL’s three-day break, the Islanders are back to work rather quickly on Wednesday with a morning skate as their first group activity since Saturday afternoon’s win over the Jets.
And then it’s back on the ice Wednesday night in Barclays Center for the Sabres, followed by another notable NHL time: The lifting of the holiday roster freeze at midnight on Wednesday. Teams could not make any trades or moves that required waivers from Dec. 19-27.
That span covered three Islanders games, two that were ugly losses in which the Isles surrendered 11 goals. The 5-2 win over Winnipeg on Saturday redeemed the poor run last week to an extent, but the Islanders still have plenty of questions surrounding their goaltenders.
Jaroslav Halak played the last two games before the break and faced 40 shots in both. Saturday’s win marked just the 11th time in 36 games the Islanders had allowed two or fewer goals, but Halak is looking like the better bet in goal over the last few weeks — he is 5-2-2 in his last nine starts and has allowed two goals or fewer in five of those games.
Halak’s save percentage is now up to .906 in all situations and .933 at even strength; the latter number (courtesy Corsica Hockey) is sixth in the NHL among goaltenders with at least 20 appearances.
Considering how poor Halak and Thomas Greiss were for the first two months of the season, even average goaltending gives the Isles an edge due to their prolific offense.
Mathew Barzal was the latest Islander to receive a star in the NHL’s weekly Three Stars release, earning No. 2 honors for his six-point week that included his first career hat trick on Saturday.
And the Isles are now leading the league with 98 even-strength goals and are fifth with a 22.8 percent efficiency on the power play.
“We’ve shown we have the firepower to win games, but you need (goaltending and defense) down the stretch of a season,” Jordan Eberle said after Saturday’s win. “A lot of games are 2-1, 3-2 and you have to learn to win those.”