Michael Grabner of the New York Islanders is fast–he won the 2011 SuperSkills fastest skater competition with lap times of 14.061 and 14.238 seconds–but sometimes his problem is that he doesn’t finish that swift rush down the ice by putting away a goal. It’s a lament often expressed by my friends who are rabid Islanders fans. As soon as number 40 gets a breakaway, he just can’t finish, akin to when Daniel Paille of the Boston Bruins has a breakaway.
However, even though breakaways might be Grabner’s weak spot, scoring goals isn’t. The 25-year-old currently leads the team in goals scored with five, taking over the team lead during last night’s 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This goal is not from that game, though it is against Pittsburgh, but just gives you an idea of how quickly Grabner can outstrip the competition and score:
The Islanders were able to pick Grabner up off waivers in 2011 from the Florida Panthers and Sunrise’s loss has been Nassau’s gain. Not even a full week after he became part of the Islanders, he already had his first point and goal under his belt. February 2011 saw him leading all rookies–he hadn’t played a full season with the Vancouver Canucks, where he was drafted in 2006, so 2010-11 was technically his rookie campaign–in scoring. He put up a six-game goal-scoring streak, the longest by a first-year since Evgeni Malkin‘s first year. His 34 goals at the end of that season led all rookies and he was nominated for the Calder Trophy, though Jeff Skinner won that year.
He kept himself game-ready during the lockout by returning to play in his native Austria for a time with VSV EC in Villach. In only 17 games played with VSV, he had 19 points, 10 of those goals.
So Grabner is swift and skilled, even if he sometimes struggles on a breakaway. His big issue is probably that people chronically underestimate the Islanders, even though there was a time–before Grabner was born–when they were four-time Stanley Cup champions. This year isn’t off to the worst start ever on Long Island, either. They’re actually above the bold line in the Eastern Conference right now, though in eighth place. They’re not even at the bottom of the strong Atlantic Division. No, that spot’s occupied by the struggling Philadelphia Flyers.
The next test for the Islanders is against their in-town rivals, the New York Rangers. Look for Rangers fans to bring up the dreadfully outdated Potvin Sucks chant and, possibly, for speedy Grabner to get more goals and extend his team lead in that category.