On one hand, special teams has been very kind to the New York Islanders.
The team’s penalty killing efforts have been tremendous all season long. New York is second in the NHL and best in the Eastern Conference in penalty kill percentage at 87.1 percent. The next best percentage in the conference is nearly three percent lower.
At one point in late November and into December, the Islanders killed 42 straight penalties and didn’t allow a goal on the man advantage for 15 consecutive games.
The New York power play, however, hasn’t been nearly as good.
At a 17.9 percent success rate, the Islanders are ranked 21st in the NHL in power play percentage, and it has only gotten worse as the season has progressed. With other lethal power play teams in the Metropolitan division, New York must correct their man advantage problems quickly to continue holding a playoff spot.
New York came out with a blistering power play to start the season. The Islanders scored eight goals on their first 38 man advantage chances. Through October, the Islanders were second in the league on the power play at 28.6 percent.
That quickly changed, though, when the calendar switched to November, as the Islanders scored on just 11.9 percent of their power-play chances that month.
The percentage has risen a bit since then, but the team still isn’t getting anywhere close to where it was on the man advantage through the first 10 games. And actually, the power-play results for New York have fallen again over the last few weeks. The Islanders scored on 17.1 percent of their power plays in December, and that number fell to 15.6 percent in January.
But those numbers really only tell half the story about the declining New York power play from December to January. The Islanders scored four of their six goals on the man advantage in the last month of 2015 before December 12.
Therefore, the power play has actually been much worse over the last seven weeks. Since December 13, New York has only been successful on 13.1 percent of its power plays.
Despite the tough power-play stretch, the Islanders still possess a playoff spot, but scoring has been very inconsistent. In seven of the last 19 games, New York has failed to register more than one goal. Over that span, the Islanders are a mediocre 9-9-1.
Nineteen games is a long time to have the power play hovering around 13 percent.
Like it is in most cases when teams go through slumps, the Islanders’ struggles on the man advantage can be contributed to several different things.
First, centers John Tavares and Frans Nielsen have hit cold streaks at different times this season and that has effected the power play.
At the halfway mark this season, Nielsen was on pace for a career-high in goals and points. At that juncture, he had four power play goals and eight points on the man advantage. Since then, he has one goal and four points in eight games, yet still leads the Islanders with five power play goals.
Tavares is tied for second with three tallies on the man advantage, however, all of those came before December 4. From that date forth, Tavares has just five goals and 14 points with just two points coming on the power play.
He has gotten things going a bit since January 12, scoring seven points in the last seven games, but it still has yet to come on the man advantage.
The second problem could be defensemen Johnny Boychuk’s injury. With guys like Tavares and Nielsen struggling, New York’s second power play unit has needed to do more, and that unit has been without Boychuk for over a month. He averaged 1:11 minutes of power play ice time per game.
Of course, his absence can’t be the entire problem. Boychuk’s role on the man advantage isn’t that large, and he was available for a vast majority of December when the New York power play was arguably at its worse.
These are just some of the visible issues. There are surely more that coach Jack Capuano and his stars are trying to fix on a daily basis.
Ultimately, the problem might fall into the hands of general manager Garth Snow. There have been rumors about the Islanders acquiring a winger to play next to Tavares. A top line winger would also help the power play.
Whether its done by an internal strategy adjustment or by bringing in someone from the outside, something must be done with the Islanders power play. Other division foes like Washington and Pittsburgh are absolutely dominating on that part of special teams. Although New York has the penalty kill to give the Islanders a chance against those teams down the stretch or in a playoff series, New York will likely need a big goal or two on the man advantage to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
In whatever means necessary, trade or otherwise, the Islanders No. 1 priority for the rest of the season should be to solve the power play.