By Lenn Robbins
When a team is going as well as the Islanders are, it’s usually the efforts of many, not just one, that is responsible for the success.
Anders Lee has been everything a captain should be. His hit on Niklas Backstrom (concussion protocol), in Game 1 has thus far knocked the Capitals center out of this best-of-seven Eastern Conference first round series. He fought Washington tough guy, Tom Wilson, later in the game, establishing a tone for the Islanders.
Anthony Beauvillier, noted Anna Kendrick groupie, is blossoming before our eyes. The 23-year-old forward picked up his seventh point of the playoffs Friday night in the team’s 5-2 win in Game 2, giving the Islanders a 2-0 lead over Washington.
But it’s been Josh Bailey, the alternate captain whose play doesn’t jump off the ice, that is as responsible for the team’s remarkable turnaround as any player. He’s such a cerebral player that the more you watch him, the more impressive he becomes.
Bailey assisted on Nick Leddy’s power play goal that evened the score at 1-1 at 2:56 of the second period. Future Hall of Famer Alex Ovechkin had dominated the first period, giving the Caps a 1-0 lead. Bailey stabilized the Islanders with his steady play.
He curled away from Washington defender Nick Jensen, switched sides, and made a cross-ice to Leddy at the left point. Leddy’s shot beat Braden Holtby, and although Ovechkin would score again to tie the game at 2-2, the Islanders had pushed back on the superstar’s initial assault.
“I think when the game gets quicker and more important, what you find with Josh is his intelligence level,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said Wednesday night on MSG Network’s post game show. “He’s got a quiet compete level I’ve come to appreciate. Sometimes, those guys aren’t appreciated for all the things they do.”
Through six playoff games, Bailey leads the Islanders with six assists and is tied with Beauvillier for the team scoring lead with seven points. His one goal was a crucial, a shorthanded goal in Game 1 that gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead after they had trailed 2-0. The Islanders would go on to win, 4-2.
Game 3 is Sunday in (Noon; USA Network) in Toronto. Up 2-0, the Islanders already have an 86-percent chance of winning this series. The change in the Islanders is 100-percent different than the end of the regular season when they lost 11-of-13 and seven straight. Contributions are coming from all corners, especially Bailey.
“I think with Josh he is a quiet, very competitive very intelligent hockey player,” said Trotz. “When the moment’s big he tends to be very relaxed and poised.”