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One statistic shows Islanders weren’t as bad as they appeared

New York Islanders interim head coach Doug Weight

New York Islanders interim head coach Doug Weight looks on against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period of an NHL hockey game at Barclays Center on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Islanders’ 6-0-1 run to get them back “in the conversation” about the playoffs, as Doug Weight put it after Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the league-leading Capitals, has seemingly been a drastic change in the Isles’ level of play.

Questions about Weight’s tweaks to the team’s on-ice style of play have abounded. But a look at one interesting chart shows that, while the Isles sunk to the bottom of the Eastern Conference and a coaching change ensued, the team has not been a disaster this season.

Sportsnet’s Dimitri Filipovic has broken down which teams spend the most time leading in games and which spend the least time trailing. The Caps, Blue Jackets and Wild are among the best in both, as expected given where they sit atop the NHL standings.

But the Islanders are sixth in percentage of time leading (37.4) and fifth in time trailing (22.6). That lends credence to Jack Capuano’s oft-bemoaned refrain of “puck luck” being one of the things that doomed his tenure.

“We’ve gone over all the scenarios from the beginning of the year and how we lost games,” Weight said. “We’re playing like a confident team now and we want to keep it going.”

There’s no one on the team looking back to the ugly 6-10-4 start to this season, when the Islanders were losing close games late. Five games in particular — Oct. 18 vs. the Sharks, Oct. 26 vs. the Canadiens, Oct. 27 at the Penguins, Nov. 23 at the Kings and Nov. 25 at the Sharks — were costly, games in which the Isles lost in regulation after giving up the go-ahead goal with less than three minutes to play.

In this stretch of 13 out of a possible 14 points the last two weeks, the Islanders have trailed for just 31:26 over seven games. The longest stretch in a game was on Tuesday, when the Caps took an early lead in the first and the Islanders pulled even early in the second while raising their level of play after falling behind.

“After being off the (ice) sheet for a few days, maybe that start is to be expected,” Weight said. “I really liked the way we came out in the second.”

The Islanders face Frans Nielsen and the Red Wings in Detroit on Friday, followed by a Barclays Center visit from the Hurricanes on Saturday. There’s no time to dwell either on how they blew games early or how they’ve been winning of late, given they are still three points out of the last playoff spot.

“There’s definitely a little bit of a buzz in here right now, some good positive energy,” Brock Nelson said. “It’s up to us to keep it going.”

Not that far behind

The Islanders have been a last-place team for much of this season, but they are among the league leaders in most minutes leading in games and fewest minutes trailing (last night’s games not included):

Minutes Leading % Time Leading Points

Wash. 1,416.2 46.772

Colum. 1,364.5 46.070

Minn. 1,299 43.769

Tor. 1,233 42.155

SJ 1,247.6 40.764

Islanders 1,090.2 37.453

Minutes Trailing % Time Trailing

Minn. 528.5 17.8

Wash. 591.6 19.5

SJ 652.5 21.2

Colum. 641.8 21.6

Islanders 660.2 22.6

Source: Dimitri Filipovic, Sportsnet

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