If you’re still wondering how the New York Islanders remain atop the Metropolitan Division, you need only to check the “GA” category on your nearest stats page and compare it to just one season ago.
“To be able to turn around the goals against the way they have until this point is just remarkable,” Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello told Prime Time Sports Thursday.
The 3.57 goals per game the Islanders allowed in 2017-18 ranked dead last in the NHL. Despite managing to score an impressive 3.18 goals per game, they missed the playoffs by 17 points then lost their franchise player, John Tavares, in free agency.
This season? A completely different story.
Scoring across the league is up, yet the Islanders are averaging a pedestrian 2.96 goals per game. However, Barry Trotz was hired as the team’s head coach in the summer and his systems, plus Lamoriello’s roster tweaks, have resulted in the Islanders allowing a league-low 2.41 goals per game through 49 outings in 2018-19.
“That is quite an accomplishment because you have to get everybody to buy into the system, buy into what is being asked of them and still ask them to score some goals,” Lamoriello said. “To me, they’ve done an outstanding job, so any accolades that Barry is getting, the coaching staff is getting, the goalie coaches are getting, they deserve it.”
Also getting plenty of the credit are the goalies themselves.
The Islanders signed netminder Robin Lehner to a bargain one-year, $1.5-million contract in the off-season and the giant Swede has exceeded all expectations. Lehner’s .931 save percentage is best in the league among goalies with at least 14 appearances. Same goes for his stellar 2.02 goals-against average. Meanwhile, Thomas Greiss has played one fewer game than Lehner, but his .920 save percentage and 2.50 GAA put him in the top-10 in each category.
The Islanders host the Tampa Bay Lightning – the only Eastern Conference team currently with more points than the Isles – Friday in New York’s first outing after the post-all-star break bye.