The New York Islanders have not had a problem scoring for the majority of this season, but their offense appears to be stuck in neutral. New York has only scored 12 goals in their last eight games, and three of them came in a win over the New Jersey Devils last week. Even with their poor scoring over this stretch, the Islanders still are fifth overall with 2.9 goals scored per game. This could change though if they don’t start playing better and their playoff spot could be in jeopardy.
With their 3-2 loss against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, the Islanders have now lost three straight games. Couple that with the Penguins come from behind win against the Arizona Coyotes, and the Islanders have now dropped into third place. The Islanders only have one win in their last eight games and it looks like they haven’t had a quality win since the beginning of the month when they beat Nashville 4-3 and they blew a two goal lead in the third period and just as easily could have lost that game. The quality of play for New York needs to improve if they are going to advance in the playoffs, assuming they make it.
What is so discouraging about the Islanders losses this month is that they have all come against playoff caliber teams. Their last seven losses have come against the New York Rangers, Ottawa, Montreal, Chicago, Minnesota, Los Angeles and Anaheim. Every one of those teams would be in the playoffs if they started today. Luckily for the Islanders only two of their remaining six games are against playoff caliber teams. Other than those games, they should be able to win enough to remain in the second or third spot in the division.
The top line hasn’t produced much even with the return of Kyle Okposo and some of the younger scorers have entered a drought. Okposo who led the team in points before his injury, only has two points in seven games since his return. Without him, John Tavares has seen a drop-off in his scoring as he only has one goal in the past eight games. The other skater on the top line has been a mix of Josh Bailey and Anders Lee, but both guys only have two points apiece. New York does have some good young goal scorers like Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson, but they have only scored two goals combined this month.
A big factor to the lack of scoring has been the team’s inability to score on the power play. Over the last eight games, the Islanders only have two power play goals in 23 opportunities. This futility has caused the Islander power play percentage on the season to drop to 18.3% which is now 15th in the NHL. If the Islanders can’t start scoring on the power play, they will struggle in the playoffs because their penalty kill isn’t good enough to stop the opponent from scoring. New York will need to capitalize on any extra opportunity they get to score.
It is also important to look at the play of the goaltending during any stretch and it seems like the Islanders are making the right call. In the 12 games this month, Jaroslav Halak has started seven of them and backup Michal Neuvirth has started the other five. It seems as though one goalie will play two and then the other will play two. This is smart because it will hopefully keep Halak fresh for when they make it to the playoffs. Halak is on pace for setting a new career high in games played, so it is a good move to make sure he gets a little extra rest.
It looked as though the Islanders were a lock to get deep into the playoffs, but now that doesn’t appear to be the case. While they should still make it into the postseason, which isn’t a given how they have been playing, it doesn’t look like they would be able to go far. At the moment their first round matchup would be the Pittsburgh Penguins and that is a team you will have to outscore if you are going to beat them. It is possible that the Islanders drop into one of the wild card spots given how Washington and Ottawa have been playing. New York has two weeks to rediscover their offensive identity or they will be in for an early exit.