Home » Islanders can’t wait to fix sudden scoring troubles

Islanders can’t wait to fix sudden scoring troubles

by Marko Florentino
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To find the last time the Islanders were shut out in consecutive games, you have to go all the way back to 49 months ago, when a 5-0 and 1-0 losses in Nashville and Vegas got the ball rolling on a messy 2-7-4 stretch that was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

So yes, the 120 straight minutes of messy offense that spoiled a promising start to a four-game road trip can be rightly called an anomaly.

But that does not make it any less urgent of a matter to fix the problem with the Senators and Rangers looming in a weekend back-to-back in which the Islanders will need better to get to Monday still in a playoff spot.

After exploding for 13 goals in the two games that started the road trip, perhaps some regression was in order for the Islanders.

And surely circumstances — facing the Kings on the second end of a back-to-back and then Buffalo in their first game back on the East Coast — did not help.

Noah Dobson #8 of the New York Islanders and Bowen Byram #4 of the Buffalo Sabres battle for position during an NHL game.
Noah Dobson of the New York Islanders and Bowen Byram of the Buffalo Sabres battle for position during an NHL game. NHLI via Getty Images

But the obvious counter is that the Islanders scored a lot against two terrible teams in San Jose and Anaheim then struggled when the competition ramped up.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but the Islanders can’t wait around to find out.

“This morning we were clear: we need net presence,” coach Patrick Roy told reporters after the team practiced Friday on Long Island. “We need to support each other in the battles. We need to be quicker on jumping on those loose pucks. More a unit of five than what we’ve been doing, maybe, the last two games. ’Cause we got way too much talent to be shut out two games in a row.”

Unsurprisingly, the 4-0 loss to Buffalo on Thursday accounted for the Islanders’ second-worst output of the season in terms of expected goals and their worst for high-danger chances at five-on-five, per Natural Stat Trick.

Where the scoreline had been unflattering to the Islanders in Los Angeles, with the combination of the Kings’ quick transitions and David Rittich having a strong game in net helping create a tough night for the offense, it was the polar opposite in Western New York.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen #1 of the Buffalo Sabres makes a glove save behind the screen of Kyle Palmieri.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen of the Buffalo Sabres makes a glove save behind the screen of Kyle Palmieri. NHLI via Getty Images

Thursday was on the Islanders and the Islanders alone, with nearly every pass looking off and nearly every player looking out-of-sync.

That extended to the power play, which has now gone 11 straight opportunities without scoring since Brock Nelson’s goal in Anaheim and is an abysmal 5-for-37 (13.5 percent) dating back to Feb. 20.

“I feel like we maybe complicated things a little too much,” Roy said Thursday night. “And that was the message by [assistant coach John MacLean] before the game: have things simple, just move that puck quick. But tonight for some reason, our legs were not there, our execution wasn’t there.”

Ironically, the downturn in the power play has coincided with the penalty kill being passable for the first time all season.

If the Islanders could ever get both going at the same time, they probably would stroll into the playoffs.

Regardless, the Islanders are walking a thin line right now.

They’ve gotten themselves into a playoff spot via their play over the past few weeks, but that will prove short-lived if the weekend goes poorly.

It’s not just the Red Wings nipping at their heels — the Capitals and Sabres look primed to make it a six-team race for three spots between the two wild-card places and third in the Metropolitan Division.

“Once you find that way, you get one, confidence coming right back,” Jean-Gabriel Pageau said Friday. “You just stick with it. I think that’ll be our mentality.”

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