The San Jose Sharks are coming off an exciting win that gave us a Logan Couture hat trick on Thursday night. As the New York Islanders roll into town, the Sharks will look to keep their power play hot against a team that managed a 7-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, with one of those goals scored shorthanded. The Islanders are 3-3-0 this year, an impressive record following the loss of their captain John Tavares.
Usually, I would say the Islanders coming to town would mean an easy win. Especially coming off a rough season, the trade of their star player and a total team rebuild with a new coach. I don’t recommend you blow them off so quickly. The Islanders have struggled against teams like the Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks, which may make the Sharks seem like a tough opponent. But, let’s not forget what happened last time these teams met. On October 8, these two teams faced each other back east. The result was certainly not a favorable one for the Sharks; they got shut out in a 4-0 loss. The Sharks played a great game against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, but the Islanders had a great game against the Kings themselves.
Not surprisingly, Matt Barzal currently leads the Islanders in points with one goal and six assists. Though he’s the points leader, the Sharks should keep an eye on Valtteri Filppula. Filppula has scored four goals this season. He was the first star of the game against the Kings, scoring two goals and landing one assist. He also had the shorthanded goal, something the Sharks power play unit should be mindful of. The last time these teams met, Casey Cizikas had himself a shorthanded goal. He’s third in scoring for the Islanders this season with three goals and an assist.
Who will be between the pipes?
This is a question for both teams, honestly. The last time Martin Jones played the Islanders he allowed three goals on 29 shots, resulting in an .896 save percentage. I’d say it’s likely we’ll see Jones starting, as he is coming off a 5-1 victory with a .960 save percentage and beyond those two games that Pete DeBoer planned to play Aaron Dell in early on, there hasn’t seemed to be a dire need to make a goaltending swap just yet.
As for the Islanders, this could be a bit of a gamble. Both goalies have about an even split on the season, with Thomas Greiss playing four games, while recently acquired Robin Lehner has played three. Lehner was in net the last time the Sharks played the Islanders and had a shutout. It was his first game back since suffering a panic attack and eventually getting treatment while playing with Buffalo, and it was a successful outing for the veteran goaltender. Lehner was in net for their successful victory over the Kings, while Greiss is coming off of two hard losses to the Predators and the Ducks. This one could be a toss up.
The power play isn’t broken
Let’s keep it that way! Yes, every expert hockey fan on Twitter tried to tell you the Sharks power play was fifty shades of ruined, but after the victory over Buffalo, I think it’s pretty clear it is not. With a game so penalty heavy (thanks for the consistency at least, refs), the Sharks showed the world their power play is none of your business. Three of the five goals against Buffalo were scored on the power play, and the Sharks didn’t allow a shorthanded goal. With a team that seems to thrive shorthanded, it’s important the Sharks special teams stays sharp.
Can the defense stay strong?
The Islanders have caught the scoring bug. Coming off a seven-goal game, the Sharks defense has to be ready to take on a team that’s warming up in the scoring department. Erik Karlsson is still adjusting to his new home, and now would be a good time to get that locked in. Playing in the same division as Buffalo last season, Karlsson should be at least somewhat aware of this team’s offense despite their rebuild. His partner on the blue line, Marc Edouard-Vlasic, will be hitting the ice for his 901st game with the Sharks. His presence is so important and the Sharks will be looking to him as they take on Matt Barzal and crew. I think the Sharks have got this in the bag as long as their defense can stay tight.
Bold prediction: The Sharks will flip the script and score four goals while Martin Jones will have a shut out. I will accept no other score.
Make sure you leave your bold predictions in the comments below! Go Sharks!