Editorials

Stephen Gionta is Making an Impact with the Isles

Perhaps the 5-0-0 record that the Islanders have when Stephen Gionta is in the lineup is a coincidence. Still, what Gionta has provided through his five games as a New York Islander has been very helpful in winning those games. After spending his whole NHL career with the New Jersey Devils, 33 year old Stephen Gionta signed a PTO (professional tryout contract) with the Islanders before the start of training camp. Headed into training camp, Gionta had 15 goals and 35 assists through 270 NHL regular-season games. Gionta broke his foot during training camp, likely from this shot block.

He would ultimately sign a minor league deal and play for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. With one goal and two assists through seven games, Gionta signed a two-way, one-year deal with the Islanders on December 21st, 2016. However, he’d have to wait until January 16th to finally get his chance with the Islanders. It was on that date when they were in Boston to face the Bruins. Gionta impressed in his debut with 19 shifts, 12:47 of ice time, one shot on goal, one hit, and two shot blocks. Of the 12:47 of ice time, Gionta was given 44 seconds on the power play and 1:12 shorthanded. The game would end in the Islanders’ favor, a 4-0 shutout, and Gionta would get a chance in the team’s following game against the Dallas Stars. With slightly less ice time (10:41), Gionta still proved to be effective in his 14 shifts registering a team leading four hits and 1:45 on the penalty kill.

Gionta made it three games in a row when he suited up to face the Kings. Just 2:30 in, Gionta gave the puck to Jason Chimera following a defensive zone face-off win. Chimera took off with the puck and beat Budaj for an early 1-0 lead in a eventual 4-2 win. Gionta received similar ice time as his previous game registering two hits through his 18 shifts and 10:53 of ice time (1:55 shorthanded). He would be scratched the previous game, a 3-2 overtime loss to the Flyers, but back in the lineup the game after that against the Blue Jackets. In 18 shifts (12:42 of ice time all at even strength), Gionta would have a shot on goal and a hit in a 4-2 win. Gionta was then scratched for seven consecutive games before getting another chance against the Avalanche. He would help even the score for the Islanders 12:01 in, passing the puck out to the point for Nick Leddy who wristed home his ninth goal of the year. In Gionta’s 17 shifts, he would have a season high 13:32 of ice time including 21 seconds on the power play, 52 seconds shorthanded, two shots on goal, one hit, and one assist in a 5-1 win.

So while five games is a small sample size, Gionta has proven to provide enough to win hockey games despite limited ice time. Whether it’s tonight against the Maple Leafs or sometime next week, I’m sure the Islanders hope that the Gionta win streak will extend.

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