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What Went Wrong for the Islanders Against the Capitals?

Islanders Capitals 1/15

The Islanders returned from their two-week hiatus with a solid 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils. One would think this victory combined with their three-game win streak would inspire a strong performance against the rival Washington Capitals. Instead, the Islanders laid a complete goose egg and lost 2-0 against the Capitals at UBS Arena on Saturday. This game left many with the question of what went wrong for the Islanders in this game?

Overall Sloppiness

The Islanders didn’t play their best game in this one. The 2-0 score is a little deceiving, as this game could’ve easily been a rout by the second period. Semyon Varlamov was one of the only Islanders players on his A-game. His stellar work in net kept the Islanders in this game until the very last seconds. But aside from Varlamov’s play, the team play in this game was very poor. The offense couldn’t sustain any significant zone time and generate good opportunities on Vitek Vanecek.

The breakout play was really poor, there were significant stretches of the game where the Islanders couldn’t even get in the offensive zone. When they did get some zone time, they fell back into a bad habit of making one too many passes and not putting anything on net. They only had 23 shots in the game, with three power plays and some 6 on 5 time at the end of the game.

The defense was no better, allowing 36 Capitals shots in the game. It was bad from the get-go, when three Islanders players converged on Aliaksei Protas leaving Tom Wilson wide open in the middle of the ice to beat Varlamov with a wrist shot. That wasn’t the only premiere opportunity the defense let up, but it was the only one able to get by Varlamov. The Islanders spent a lot of time in their own zone and couldn’t escape with the puck. The lone positive from the defense was the penalty kill which went 2/2 in the game. But even then, they were often bailed out by the work of Semyon Varlamov. It was just a really sloppy performance where nothing went right for the team. 

The End of the Power Play Streak

Islanders Capitals 1/15

Courtesy of New York Post

Coming into this game, the Islanders had scored power-play goals in five straight games dating back to their win against the Bruins. The power play has been operating a lot better than usual, but it took several steps backwards in this one. Like the entire offense, the power play reverted to its old bad habits. There was too much passing and holding without any shots being put on net. Their zone entries were pretty awful as well, and they spent a lot of time chasing the puck. This extended into the game-ending 6 on 5, where the Islanders couldn’t do anything significant with the extra man.

This was the worst possible game for the power play to go cold. Taking advantage of these opportunities are critical against good teams like the Capitals. Especially when your goaltender is fighting to keep it as close as it was. What’s even more vexing about this particular day on the power play was a missed opportunity on a second-period power play.

Josh Bailey

Islanders Capitals 1/15
Courtesy of Twitter/@EverydayIsles

Yes, Josh Bailey gets his own section for this one. Is it reasonable to exclusively blame him for a game where the overall team play was really poor? Probably not. But then again, the story the above image tells is absolutely brutal. If you didn’t already know the Islanders were shut out in this one, you’d assume that picture was taken before he shot that puck into the empty net for a goal. Instead, Bailey held that puck until Vanecek got himself back in position. And then he tried to pass it. 

This was also on the power play, which went 0/3 on the day. This was just a terrible play all in all. A goal in that spot may have secured at least a point for the Islanders. This is especially disappointing coming after one of Bailey’s better games of the season in getting a goal and assist against the Devils. While Bailey isn’t responsible for the whole team’s lack of offense, not scoring on that opportunity is just unacceptable. 

The Next Game

The Islanders open up a home and home set with the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night at UBS Arena. The Flyers are on a seven-game losing streak, so these two games present a great chance at four points for the Islanders. Of course, if they play the type of game they played against the Capitals they’ll be doomed for disappointment. But hopefully, this disaster of a game serves as a motivator to come back strong against a struggling Flyers team. In addition, the Islanders might get Barry Trotz back for at least one if not both of the games, which should also add a spark.

Featured image courtesy of ESPN

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