Coming off a dominating 2-0 win against the Winnipeg Jets, things seemed to be heading in the right direction for the New York Islanders. It continued to look that way as they took a 2-1 lead into the third period against the Minnesota Wild. However, the team completely unraveled and lost that game at a score of 5-2. Since that loss, they’ve dropped three straight against the New Jersey Devils, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. After such poor results, the question has to be asked in regards to what is going wrong for the Islanders?
Atrocious Work on the Power Play
It’s starting to sound like a broken record with the amount of times the power play comes into question for this team. But it is completely relevant and a large part of why they’re struggling. In the Islanders last four games they’ve gone 0-8 on the power play. And if that’s not bad enough, they’re also giving teams quality opportunities on the man advantage. This reigned especially true in the Devils game in which the Devils got several good chances on the three Islander power plays. One of these chances resulted in Janne Kuokkanen scoring the opening goal of the game for the Devils.
The power play is quite literally the definition of insanity for the Islanders. They do the same thing over and over again and are constantly met with the same lack of success. The zone entries are incredibly sloppy and the team spends an excessive amount of time passing around the puck. It’s getting to the point where these opportunities are becoming momentum killers for the team. The coaching staff needs to make the power play schemes a point of emphasis during practice, because clearly what’s happening now isn’t working at all.
Overall Offensive Struggles
On top of their power play woes, the five-on-five offense has been nothing to talk about either. The Islanders haven’t scored over two goals in a game since getting five against the lowly Canadiens. In fact, their offense has been pretty awful throughout this season. Their 29 total goals is only three ahead of the last-place Coyotes who have 26. Their GF/GP also ranks in the bottom five in the league with a total of 2.23. With the exception of the usual producers in Brock Nelson, Oliver Wahlstrom and Mat Barzal, everyone’s off to a really slow start. Even Anders Lee hasn’t had a whole lot of success when compared to his pace from last season.
To Barry Trotz’s credit, he has tried shuffling the lines around to try and generate a spark in the lineup. But it hasn’t appeared to help the situation all given the team’s ensuing 6-1 blowout loss to the Panthers. The Islanders seem to miss the highly productive offensive play of Jordan Eberle and Nick Leddy on their top units. They just haven’t seemed the same in most of the games they’ve played without them this season. The early season play from the Islanders offense has left some pretty genuine concern going forward.
How Can They Improve?
The road ahead is far from easy for the Islanders. News broke on Wednesday that top defenseman Ryan Pulock is going to be out four to six weeks with an injury. On top of that, Josh Bailey tested positive for COVID-19 leaving him out indefinitely. The lone piece of good news for the Islanders right now is that they finally get to play at home. But even then they welcome several tough opponents in the Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers.
If the Islanders are going to turn things around on this homestand, they’re going to need Zdeno Chara and Noah Dobson to step up. Both have been very subpar to start the year and are going to see a much bigger role with Pulock on the shelf. Pulock’s role is going to be very difficult to replace, but elevated play from either or both will help the Islanders fill the void.
As for the offense, the boost from playing at home should help out at least a little bit. But more importantly, it’s about finding the line combinations that best suit the players. The lines used to start the season have been disappointing to say the least, and Trotz has made mention of that in his rationale for the massive line shakeups employed against the Panthers. Perhaps trying out different line combinations will help struggling players like Zach Parise and Kyle Palmieri could help them improve.
The team also just needs to have a more aggressive approach to putting pucks on net. An approach similar to the one they had in the game against the New Jersey Devils. They were shutout in that game, but that was largely due to the excellent play of MacKenzie Blackwood in net. More often than not, that kind of approach will be a big help in boosting their offensive production.
Featured image courtesy of The Star Tribune
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