Special Teams Headline Early Season Success for New York Islanders

Christopher Benini@@TheRealCBeniniContributor IJanuary 31, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 29:  Evgeni Nabokov #20 of the New York Islanders makes a glove save in the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on January 29, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Islanders defeated the Penguins 4-1.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Think to yourself: When was the last time the New York Islanders had a winning record as late in the season as January? All joking aside, the Isles sit with a 3-2-1 record and sit near the top of the league in two significant categories.

They rank fifth in the league on power play efficiency at 30 percent. This is nothing new for the Islanders. Despite finishing near the bottom of the standings, the Islanders power play was one of the best in the league last year as well. They ranked seventh in the league last year with an efficiency of 18.5 percent.

One area that there is significant change from last season though, is the penalty kill. Last season, teams looked forward to feasting on a weak Islanders penalty kill. This year has been the complete opposite. After having the eighth-worst penalty kill last season, the Islanders have come out with the third-best penalty kill in the league this season. They've only allowed one power play goal in 20 chances; only the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins have sported a better efficiency on the penalty kill this season. This includes fighting off a five minute major against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.

The Islanders need to keep staying aggressive on the penalty kill and starting goaltender, Evgeni Nabokov agrees.

"We can't let our foot off the gas with the penalty kill after 5 games because it could win or lose a game," said Nabokov.

It's still very early in the year, but if the Islanders can keep up the quality play on special teams they will certainly be going the right direction and may find themselves in position for a playoff spot.

The Islanders next play the defending Eastern Conference Champion, New Jersey Devils Thursday in Newark, New Jersey. The Islanders lost their first and only meeting with them this season 2-1.