It’s been a first half filled with ups and downs for the New York Islanders this season. Just when things are starting to look up, the wheels momentarily fall off to make it seem as though the sky is falling.
That kind of dichotomy can be best represented by the difference in success between the offense and defense. While the Islanders have no problem lighting the lamp, entering Thursday night tied for tops in the NHL with 170 goals scored, the defense has been a liability, allowing 179 goals. That’s worst in the league.
They are on pace to become the first NHL team to give up 300-plus goals in a single season since 2005-06.
Still, this team is very much in the postseason conversation in a packed Eastern Conference and will need their best players to step up big in the second half should they want to play deep into April or even May.
Here are Metro’s picks for Islanders first-half awards:
Hart Trophy (MVP)- John Tavares
Stats (as of 1/25): 26 goals (T-5th in NHL), 31 assists, 57 points (3rd in NHL)
While he has more support than ever before, captain John Tavares is still the engine that makes the Islanders go. He is on pace for career highs in goals and assists while anchoring a dangerous first line alongside Josh Bailey and Anders Lee. The 27-year-old remains the mercurial playmaker on the puck thanks to his strength and a lethal finisher.
Norris Trophy (top defenseman)- Adam Pelech
Stats: 1 goal, 11 assists, +12 rating, 84 blocked shots, 65 hits
It’s difficult to take many positives away from the defense this year given their sieve-like tendencies, but Adam Pelech is quietly becoming one of the Islanders’ top defensemen. He leads the team in plus-minus, blocked shots and leads all New York defensemen in hits.
Selke Trophy (best defensive forward)- Andrew Ladd
Stats: 9 goals, 9 assists, 40 hits
While Andrew Ladd’s injury allowed for the formation of the Islanders’ suddenly-explosive second line, he is one of their best defensive forwards given his physicality and willingness to go into the corners. His 0.9 defensive point shares rank first among Islanders forwards.
Calder Trophy (rookie of the year)- Mathew Barzal
Stats: 16 goals (T-2nd among NHL rookies), 34 assists (1st among NHL rookies, 50 points (1st among NHL rookies)
We are running out of superlatives that could describe Mathew Barzal, who has quickly become one of the most explosive players in the NHL and is a frontrunner for the league’s Calder Trophy. This could very well be the greatest skater the Islanders have ever had given his speed and ability to change direction on a dime. His vision makes him an elite playmaker and he isn’t too bad at putting the puck in the back of the net either.
Vezina Trophy (top goalie)- Jaroslav Halak
Stats: 14-14-3 record, .906 save percentage, 3.23 goals against average
Neither of the Islanders’ goalies are really deserving of this award, but Jaroslav Halak has pulled away from Thomas Greiss as the team’s No. 1 goalie this season. This coming after the two were supposed to platoon throughout the season.
Masterton Trophy (perseverance, sportsmanship)- Josh Bailey
Stats: 12 goals, 42 assists (T-2nd in NHL), 54 points
Playing in his 10th NHL season, everything is finally coming together for Josh Bailey, who is playing up to the hype that surrounded him when he was drafted ninth overall in 2008. He is just three points away from setting a new career high in points and it’s not even February yet. As the primary set-up man on the first line, Bailey’s assist numbers have benefitted from the finishing abilities of Tavares and Lee.