We’ve done it. We have reached the NHL All Star Break. We are now midway through the season (actually a little bit further along than midway, but who’s counting), and the Isles have been firing on all cylinders. We’ve got Johnny Tavares and Jaroslav Halak representing Team Toews in tonight’s All Star Game in Columbus, Ohio. But midseason break means midterm grades for the Isles. So let’s jump into that now:
John Tavares: A
The Belle of the Islanders’ Ball. Johnny leads the team in both points (45) and goals (21). He’s everything you could ask for in a captain. Young. Great leader. Damn handsome. He’s the perfect man to lead the Isles through this magic season they’re having.
Kyle Okposo: A
The team leader in assists (30), and only one point behind Tavares for the team lead (44), KO is having another big season on the Isles’ first line. The Okposo to Tavares connection is just too nice. #OkieForSochi2014
Michael Grabner: C
Grabner has been hurt for the majority of this season. He has 4 goals and 2 assists in the 12 games he has played this so far. He’s still probably the fastest player in the NHL, and a fantastic playmaker. He needs to stay healthy to add another weapon to this potent offense.
The Kids – Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Anders Lee: A+
Could you image how much fun it has to be to hang out with these three? Dubbed the “Kids Line” by Howie Rose (Strome is 21, Nelson is 23, Lee is 24), these three have taken the NHL by storm. It’s pretty much like Lawrence Taylor, Mike Tyson, and Keith Hernandez in 1986, except these three are all on a team (and line) together.
Nelson has been the biggest surprise this season. We knew the kid could play, but nobody knew he could play like this. His 15 goals puts him at the #2 spot on the team behind Tavares. I am excited to see what Brock can do in the second half of this season.
Strome is killing it in his first full season in the Big Leagues. He has proven that not only can he keep up with the big boys, but he can out play most of them. Team leader in +/- (+16) and second in assists behind Kyle Okposo (25), this kid has proven that he is the real deal.
Quietly, Anders Lee has hammered home 13 goals this season. And there is absolutely nothing I love more than making endless Anders Holmvik references every time he steps on the ice.
P.S. He’s a handsome devil
The Fourth Line – Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck: A++++++++
This is undoubtably the best fourth line in all of hockey. This would be a third line on most teams, and even a second line on a few. Just an absolutely relentless rush of energy. They physically wear you out. They work as a unit, and are the only line that Jack Capuano has not altered all season. Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck occupy the #1 and #2 spots in the NHL in hits, with 218 and 191, respectively. Zeek is a faceoff machine. Basically, when this line is on the ice, they dominate the puck, and they dominate the opposition with the most relentless forecheck you’ve ever seen.
Johnny Boychuk: A+
Is there anything the Johnny Rocket can’t do? A menacing defender with one of the deadliest slappers in the NHL. He has been the MVP of the Isles’ season so far. Johnny came in and solidified this young Islanders team with a combination of outstanding talent and veteran leadership. He was an enormous new addition to this squad.
Nick Leddy: B+
Speaking of new additions, we have Johnny Boychuk’s right hand man, Nick Leddy. Another Stanley Cup winning defenseman, Leddy is also quite adept on the offensive side. He’s ripped 7 goals and 14 assists in the first half of the season.
Travis Hamonic: B
The Hammer has been a more than solid defender this season. However, he leads the team in penalty minutes. On the 28th ranked penalty kill in the league, that’s not a good stat.
Lubomir Visnovsky: C
Lubo has been good when he can make it onto the ice. But that’s the issue. The 38 year old veteran has had a tough time staying healthy this season. He only played in 29 games so far, and is currently still on injured reserve.
Jaroslav Halak: A+
All-Star. Third in the league in wins (25). There’s not much else to say about Jaro. He’s been phenomenal. For the past few seasons, this team was a goaltender away from being a real competitive team. Now that they have that, they are absolutely deadly. Halak has been just as big of an addition as Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy.
Chad Johnson: D
Johnson has been rough. An abysmal 3.38 goals against average and .870 save percentage leave the Isles with a huge question mark at the backup goaltender position. The only reason I didn’t give Johnson an F is because I know he has the ability to be a good goalie. Either he needs to get back to his form, or we have to pray that Halak can stay healthy.
Jack Capuano: B+
You have to hand it to Jacky Caps. He has his team firing on all cylinders. He has faced a great deal of criticism in recent years, but this team is 31-14-1. There isn’t much to criticize. The only thing I would like to see Coach Caps tighten up is the Islanders’ penalty kill. It’s 28th in the league at 74.4%.
This is the most fun Islanders team I’ve ever watched. Every night they play, you know that they have a great chance of winning. There’s no team in the NHL that I don’t think the Islanders can beat (except the Habs, maybe). Get used to the Islanders. They’re not going away any time soon. Train rolls on! CHOO CHOO!