The Islanders lack of recent success is so extensive it’s become proverbial. How are they looking this year? Is their 13th position in the standings and -11 goal differential earned by bad play or bad luck?
The Islanders have been trying something new this year, taking a leaf out of Vancouver’s playbook by heavily starting their best offensive weapons (Moulson-Tavares) extensively in the offensive zone (60%) and they are responding with pretty decent puck possession and offense. But crummy goaltending has resulted in a -3 goal differential for the pair. Side effect of trying to be Vancouver without Luongo or Kesler or Hamhuis to play defense for you when the scorers aren't on the ice.
I don't know what has happened to Frans Neilsen, normally a solid two-way player who plays 2nd line. He is getting killed, hugely negative puck possession (41.5% Fenwick) and -6 on the year. Its not like he's playing as Malhotra here either, his usage doesn't stand out as extrodinary. He’s now been replaced by Marty Reasoner, who I’m not sure should even be an NHL player anymore.
The bottom six is pretty non-descript , they take a lot of defensive zone draws and come out negative in goal differential and puck possession. Cizikas’s 4th line at least seems to be making a decent amount of traction in limited minutes and coming out even in goals.
Injuries and lack of talent have caught up to the Islander’s blueline. Hamonic-MacDonald are doing the heavy lifting and getting slaughtered. An aging Streit, who has to carry a plug in Joe Finley tonight, is -10 5 on 5 this year due to crummy goaltending although with have decent puck possession. The one unit that is getting some traction is Visnovsky-Hickey which is getting pretty good puck possession in an offensive role. Hickey looks like he was a decent enough waiver wire pickup in the limited action he's seen.
This is where the Islanders are actually good. 2nd best by goals (9.98), 3rd best by shots (57.7) an elite man advantage powered by a strong offensive center, his faithful sidekick winger and a pair of aging blueliners who can still play offense. They fall off massively when their top unit isn’t out there in scoring and puck possession (about 30 shot attempts per hour worse) but their net results are still very impressive. This is a man advantage to treat with respect. Stay out of the box White.
Islanders are also decent on the penalty kill. 9th goals against (4.72), 18th shots against (49.6), unlike 5 on 5 they can get the job done when down a man, but aren’t elite. Nothing much to pick out from here, everyone is doing pretty good but the 2nd pairing will have to adapt to the loss of Ben Strait to injury. I figure Visnovsky fills in but it could be Finley's job.
Islanders live and die on Tavares’s scoring. Without him on the ice the Islanders aren't winning so bottle him up and they’ve got nothing. Plekanec should be getting a ton of defensive zone draws against him tonight. I feel like a broken record here but this would be a perfect time to move Subban up the lineup. Actually against the Islanders you might be well served by putting Subban and Markov together to double up on their big guy but on the road you probably want to spread the talent on the blueline. Okposo and Grabner should be decent threats on paper but they haven’t been getting it done this season and they are centered by Mr Not Good Enough for Oiler/Columbus Reasoner. This should be a good opportunity for Galchenyuk and Desharnais’s lines to put some points on the board.
Islanders are below average on score tied Fenwick with 48.8% but that is compounded by worst in the league .882 save%. They have the look of a brutal 5 on 5 team that is above average on special teams. They sit at -12 on the year absent shootouts even with a 7-0 blowout to their names. Unless Nabokov suddenly gets a second wind they are in trouble.
Streit's contract is up this year, he might go on the market. Other notables are Visnovsky and Nabokov but there is a good chance they won't be in the NHL next year.