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A Failure to Communicate in Own Zone Hurt Islanders in Loss to Carolina

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The New York Islanders were rather sloppy in all facets of their game in Thursday’s 6-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Islanders’ lack of communication and awareness in their own zone made life for netminder Ilya Sorokin rather tricky.

Sorokin, the Islanders starter until Semyon Varlamov returns, has been a goaltender that thrives off being in control. His strong rebound control comes from his aggressiveness and his ability to track the puck so well.

He had shown strong rebound control due to his aggressiveness and puck-tracking ability. Sorokin’s calm demeanor has allowed him to succeed, but like any goaltender, when you take away his eyes and make the front of the net chaotic, the ability for him to succeed becomes significantly harder.

And Carolina certainly did their homework.

Right from puck drop, Carolina established traffic in front of Sorokin that would have rivaled rush hour on the Long Island Expressway. Whether it was putting a multitude of bodies in front or sending pucks through the crease, there was always chaos ensuing by the Islanders’ paint.

It was on full display during Andrei Svechnikov’s deflection goal that tied the game one midway through the first period. Andy Greene could not keep Svechnikov to the outside and allowed him to get his stick on the puck for the goal. Greene’s inability to box out the Carolina forward led directly to the goal, but it was a mistake earlier in the play that gave their opponent a chance.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau passed the puck to Greene, who was stationed in front of his own goal. With immense pressure on Greene due to the dominant forechecking ability of Carolina, he threw the puck away as fast as he could towards the boards.

The puck ended up back at the point and Carolina executed on the turnover.

Once that pass left the stick of Greene, Carolina rushed to the front of the net. They used a two-player screen, with the higher guy, Vincent Trocheck, using his stick as a distraction. Scott Mayfield had lost Trochek seconds prior.

That initial lack of awareness, more so on Pageau than Greene, led to the whole play developing for Carolina. Sorokin had to find the puck, and just as he did, the shot came and changed direction.

Carolina’s second goal came in a similar fashion. After a face-off win in the Islanders zone, the puck made its’ way towards Sorokin yet deflected off not one but two sticks before beating him through the wickets.

It was impossible for Sorokin to find that shot, let alone react quick enough to two deflections. He needed more support.

Scott Mayfield had lost Carolina forward Nino Niederreiter right from the face-off. Mayfield looked over his left shoulder to find the puck but had not realized his man had already established himself in front of Sorokin.

Josh Bailey tried to block the shot off the stick of Jaccob Slavin but only made matters worse as he stepped right into the sight-line of Sorokin. If a forward plans to block a shot, he must commit completely, which Bailey did not.

The Hurricanes continued to take advantage of the Islanders’ lack of responsibility in their own zone. Casey Cizikas, after making a strong play, lost the puck in front of his goal, leading to a wide-open chance for Jordan Martinook to snipe one high blocker-side.

The fourth goal saw Zdeno Chara get beat to the outside by Niederreiter, who went in all alone on Sorokin, sneaking the puck through following chaos in front.

The fifth goal, the goal that head coach Barry Trotz said in his postgame interview was the back-breaker, came with the Hurricanes on the powerplay. Teuvo Teravainen was left all alone to let off a lethal one-timer that beat Sorokin high glove-side. Sorokin would say he wanted that one back given no screen on the play, but Teravainen had no one defending him, at all. 

According to Natural Stat Trick, Carolina recorded 33 scoring chances, 12 being considered high-danger. Sorokin faced 10 high-danger shots, stopping eight. While one could say Carolina earned their chances, the Islanders’ lack of communication, whether it was an inability to clear the front, clear the puck out, or watching rather than play, put these chances on a silver platter.

It’s easy to put all the blame on the Islander skaters, but Sorokin deserves some of the blame as well.

Sorokin may have been towards the top of his crease if you look back at the goals he allowed, but adjustments need to be made given Carolina’s obvious gameplan.

Deflections in-tight only work if a netminder is back in his crease. Even an inch or two back of the deflection can make a huge difference. Sorokin wants to be out even father against teams like that and needs to be more vocal in directing his defenders.

If the Islanders want to put Thursday’s loss behind them and have success going forward, everyone needs to clean up their act in their own zone.

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