The New York Islanders are for real.
Even after losing John Tavares they are on an amazing 15-4-1 tear which has elevated them into first place in the Metropolitan Division with 63 points, three points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
So what changed?
For one thing the front office and the head coach. Lou Lamoriello was hired as the general manager, on June 12, 2018, and Barry Trotz was named head coach nine days later.
The Islanders' play has been stellar defensively holding the top spot in the NHL giving up just 2.41 goals a game. They are in the middle of the league with 2.96 goals scored a game.
The goaltending has been outstanding.
Robin Lehner is 15-7-4 with a .931 save percentage and a 2.02 goals against average. It's logical that the Buffalo Sabres may be second guessing when they didn't retain Lehner's abilities and allowed him to sign with the Islanders.
Thomas Greiss has been effective with a 14-8-1 record, and a .920 save percentage along with a 2.50 goals against average.
Tough to beat good goaltending.
Mathew Barzal is amazing
If you were able to catch the 2019 NHL All-Star game you were able to see the magic that Mathew Barzal possesses that even Sidney Crosby was boasting about.
His contribution to the Islanders' success this season can be seen with his 14 goals. 31 assists in 49 games. He leads the team in scoring and is one if not the best skater in the league.
Add in another offensive threat in Anders Lee who has chipped in 18 goals, 19 assists in 49 games and you can see the talent that the Islanders have at center ice.
So, do they miss John Tavares?
It would impossible to say no, but thus far this season they have shown that they can win without him. There weren't too many experts predicting that the Tavares-less Islanders would be leading their division at the All-Star break.
Right now the amazing Islanders are on pace to gather 102 points and win their division. Their chances of being in the playoffs are 95 percent and winning the Eastern Conference is a 13.8 percent odds. They even have a 6.5 percent chance of winning the Cup.
Having Barry Trotz has certainly helped
Talking the Stanley Cup-winning coach out of retirement and especially being tasked with taking a team without their star player and the captain had to be a challenge that Trotz just couldn't resist.
It goes without saying that his adept coaching has put the Islanders in the position to be a team to be reckoned with this season. He has the boys playing well, and he stresses DEFENSE... and it's working!
This shows every team that if you lose your best player you still have a shot to be a good team. It goes along the same thought process that when a team has multiple injuries they can either tank or step up and play by committee.
A perfect example would be the Arizona Coyotes who have had so many injuries the player's salaries on injured reserve almost match the rest of the team.
So, the New York Islanders have proven that losing a substantial player like John Tavares who contributed 37 goals, 47 assists last season is not a reason to give up hope.
They have done perfectly fine without Tavares. They perhaps were glad all the hype over whether he would stay or go elsewhere is over.
They can concentrate on playing hockey now, and they certainly are doing an outstanding job of it thus far this season.
They need to re-sign Ander Lee, their new captain to an extension, and it will get done.
Beyond that, watch for the Islanders to make a splash in the playoffs.
I wouldn't count them out.
What do you think of the New York Islanders' performance this season? Will they be a finalist in the Eastern Conference playoffs? Let us know in the comments section below.