Al Arbour was serving in his second stint behind the Islanders’ bench in the 1989-90 season. They were starting to sizzle on the ice around this time, heading for a nine-game winning streak.
It seems like forever ago. Now the Islanders have a chance for their first single-season seven-game winning streak since then — 29 years later. They will face Carolina on Tuesday night at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
At the start of the season, expectations were not riding high.
“Certainly, you’re never satisfied, no matter who you are,” team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said Monday. “But if I could have written down on a piece of paper, or somebody wrote [down on] a piece of paper and said you’d be where you are today, would you sign here, you’d sign.”
The Islanders (23-13-4, 50 points) hold the Eastern Conference’s first wild card. “I think, for the most part, they believe that we can win every game,” coach Barry Trotz said.
They are in rare territory, and relishing it.
“It’s one of those things where we haven’t really strung a streak like this together very often,” Anders Lee said after practice at Northwell Health Ice Center. “But we’re looking at it as just another game. We want to keep it going just for the purposes of where we want to go in the season and keep climbing in the standings.”
They had to climb out of a two-goal hole Saturday night in St. Louis. Trotz wasn’t happy with the effort during the first two periods, but they stole one behind goalie Robin Lehner.
“I felt like we should have ski masks to get on the plane,” Trotz said.
Overall, they’re on an NHL-best 9-1 run. As Matt Martin put it: “Guys are really invested in each other and doing the right things on the ice.”
Lehner has exceeded expectations. He has allowed only 13 goals in his last 10 appearances and led the league in goals-against average at 2.18 after Sunday’s play. He was named the NHL’s third star of the week Monday.
“The team does good, individual success happens also,” Lehner said. “I’m just happy we’re winning right now, to be honest.”
Even with all this winning, the Islanders are in fourth in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind Columbus, two behind second-place Pittsburgh and four behind first-place Washington.
“We go on this great stretch and we don’t necessarily gain ground as much as you’d think, right?” Lee said. “So it just goes to show how important every night is.”
Notes & quotes: This will be Martin’s 600th NHL game. The left wing called it “pretty special for myself and my family. Hopefully I’ll have many more in the tank.” . . . Valtteri Filppula (IR, upper body) practiced. Trotz will decide on Tuesday if the center will play . . . Trotz has decided on his goalie, but he wasn’t saying. Lehner has won a career-high seven straight. Thomas Greiss, though, stopped 109 of 112 shots in going 3-0 against Carolina in October and November.
With Neil Best