NHL New York Islanders

5 Things New York Islanders Must Do To Be Successful During 2013-14 Season

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5 Things the New York Islanders Must Do To Be Successful

New York Islanders
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into last year, nobody really gave the New York Islanders much hope for making the playoffs. But they went on to surprise everybody and made the playoffs as the eighth seed. It was a huge accomplishment for this very young team. Now that the Islanders have had a taste for playoff hockey, they want to go back there again this year.

Some people have been critical that the lockout-shortened season may have been an aid to the Islanders, as far as them getting into the playoffs is concerned. Well, now this year is back to a full 82-game season, which gives the team a real chance to prove to everybody that last year was no fluke. Plus having a full training camp is going to be a big help to head coach Jack Capuano, in order to see what line combos are going to work best for his team to win this season. The Islanders have plenty of talent on the roster, now they just have to bring it all together to get back to playoff contention again.

This year, much like last season, the Islanders are going to be looking for their best player, and team captain, John Tavares, to carry the team again. Tavares is quickly becoming one of the elite centers in the entire NHL and he gives the team a good foundation to work with. The team is also bringing back netminder Evgeni Nabokov, who they look to rely on heavily for another deep run. Both guys are very, very good, but they can’t do it all by themselves. There’s more work to be done if the Islanders want to try and get back into the playoffs. With that in mind, here are five things the Islanders can do to be a playoff team again this year!

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5. Step Up Physical Play

physical play
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

For a hockey team to really be effective, they have to play physical. Most Stanley Cup winning teams are the best checking teams in the league. Right now, the Islanders are taking another step in that direction. They already have league hit king in Matt Martin. They added the former hit king around the league in Cal Clutterbuck. Those two guys provide a pretty intimidating force for the opposition. Now the rest of the team has to get in on the act. By playing a physical brand of hockey, it allows to have more open ice to work with for the offensive stars on the club. The Islanders already have had a good physical presence, but it has to be more consistent every night to really be effective.

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4. Take Pressure Off Goalies

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the Islanders finished 21st in the league in goals against per game, at 2.83. Evgeni Nabokov is going to be the No. 1 man again in net, and whoever backs him up, whether its Kevin Poulin or Andres Nilsson, they have to play well for the Islanders to have a chance. But that’s only half the battle. There were some nights last year where it looked like the Islanders defense left their goalies hanging out to dry. What the defense really has to do this year is take some of the pressure off the netminders. The goalies don’t need to stand on their heads every night. They may have to steal a game or two, but the defense really needs to get better. They have to make sure the goalies aren’t having to overwork on a lot of nights if they want a chance to win.

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3. Special Teams Need To Improve

special teams
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Last year the powerplay was decent, finishing 11th in theNHL at 19.9 percent effectiveness. That is taking a bit of a hit with the loss of powerplay quarterback Mark Streit. From all indications, Lubomir Visnovsky will be filling in that role nicely, so the man advantage looks to be solid again this year. Surprisingly, the penalty kill was a weak spot a year ago, finishing 21st in the league at 80.3 percent. The Isles have enough talent up front in the form of Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen to kill penalties. They just have to be more aware around their net and help clear the garbage away from their netminders while down a man, and they should be fine.

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2. Play Better At Home

Home Ice
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Over the past few years, it always seems like playing on the road has been more friendly then playing at Nassau Coliseum. Over the last five seasons, the Islanders have had a winning season at home only once, and that was 23 wins back in 2009-10. That’s been it. Every other year has been a game or so under .500 at home. That has really got to change. For the Islanders to be a success, they have to be a 500 team at home if they want to have a chance to reach the playoffs. They have some tough games at home this year, playing the likes of the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks at home, just to name a few. So the team has got to stay tough on home ice.

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1. Consistent Secondary Scoring

Goal Scoring
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

This has been an issue for the Islanders for a while now. They really can’t rely on the John Tavares-Matt Moulson line every night. We saw glimpses of that consistent secondary scoring late last year. Both Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey turned it on late in the year and in the playoffs. Those two guys need to keep that going into this year. Michael Grabner is going to need to return to the form he had in his rookie year, a year in which he scored 32 goals for the Islanders. Plus with the influx of the new, younger talent, that is going to be cracking the lineup this season, they have to be able to produce right off the bat. If the Islanders don’t get consistent secondary scoring, then they will miss out on the playoffs. The secondary scoring has got to be there, and with the team that’s here right now, I think it will be there and give the Islanders a good chance this season.