2014-15 New York Islanders mid-season report card:
Any discussion of the Islanders forward units begins with John Tavares. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 Draft leads the team with 19 goals and 42 points while playing in every game. Following a career-high four goal effort in Friday's 6-3 win over the Penguins at Nassau Coliseum, linemate Kyle Okposo trails Tavares by one point for the team lead. Kids Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson have acquitted themselves well, while veteran forwards Nikolay Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski have added upfront depth. The fourth line of Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck has totaled 27 points while playing with speed and physicality. Frans Nielsen is as good a two-way center as there is in the NHL.
General Manager Garth Snow answered the biggest question about the Islanders in one fell swoop on the afternoon of Oct. 4, by trading for Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy. The acquisitions gave head coach Jack Capuano a legitimate top pairing, and allowed him to move burgeoning shutdown man Travis Hamonic to the second pairing. Due to injuries, Lubomir Visnovsky has been limited to 29 games. Thomas Hickey and Calvin de Haan have been solid.
Throughout the course of the 2013-14 season it was plainly obvious that goaltending was a decided weakness. To fix that flaw, Snow traded for the negotiating to Jaroslav Halak in June, then signed the veteran netminder to a four-year, $18 million deal. The move has paid dividends as Halak compiled a 24-8-0 record in 32 games. Chad Johnson, whom Snow signed to backup Halak, has struggled badly. In 12 games, Johnson is 6-5-0 with an .869 save percentage and 3.40 goals against average.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C+
The play of the specialty team units may be the biggest focal point in the second half. The Islanders rank 14th in the league with an 18.8 percent success rate on the power play, but the penalty kill is 27th in the league.
Despite the hysterical rantings of a certain segment of the fanbase, the truth is that Jack Capuano has the respect of his team.