The New York Islanders have undeniably changed since last season. This is primarily due to the fact that major holes from last season are now being filled through the acquisitions of Jaroslav Halak, Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy.
It has also helped that Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Calvin de Haan have matured, and that Don Cherry dubbed them the best fourth line in the history of hockey.
The Islanders have a solid five-point lead in the Metro division and are tied for third in the NHL overall, and while this is impressive, it can be written off as fluky.
No team transforms from fifth-worst to fifth-best in the league after getting a couple of defensemen and an injury-prone goaltender.
Statistically, the best way to measure a team’s ability in five-on-five hockey is almost unanimously considered to be puck possession.
There are three statistic mechanisms important to why these Islanders are not only a legitimate playoff team, but also strong Cup contenders: Fenwick, Corsi, and PDO. Fenwick and Corsi both measure puck possession by counting shots on net and missed shots–you need to have the puck in order to shoot the puck–but Corsi counts blocked shots as well.
Based on Corsi alone, the only team ahead of the Islanders are the Chicago Blackhawks. Interestingly, the Islanders are also only trailing Chicago on Fenwick, meaning that the Islanders often have control of the puck, and that when they have it, they shoot. This sums up the Isles’ offensive strategy perfectly: bombard opponents with as many shots as possible.
These statistics account for why the Islanders are ranked second in shots and fourth in goals scored per hour. Their offense has never been in doubt, and their defense has vastly improved.
This year, they’re fourth in the league in Fenwicks against, meaning that they allow the fourth lowest Fenwick rating. All of these numbers are very encouraging, and would seem to indicate a strong team on the rise.
Alternatively, some people argue that these numbers are just a fluke or lucky streak by an upstart bunch in Long Island.
But this is inherently false: PDO attempts to measure luck in the NHL by adding shot percentage to save percentage, the reasoning being that all shots on net in the NHL result in either a save or a goal. With this in mind, there should be an average of about 100 across the league, with numbers above being considered lucky, and those below being considered unlucky.
You can see where I’m going with this.
The Islanders are 20th in the league with a PDO of 99.8. This isn’t luck; if everyone stays healthy, we could potentially see a fifth Cup come to the Island this year.
Callis is a member of the class of 2017.