The New York Islanders may have had 49 shots on goal in their 4-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, but the issue through the first two periods was their lack of a consistent net-front presence in front of netminder Kevin Lankinen.
Heading into the contest, Kevin Lankinen was a netminder who allowed goals, on average, from 25.21 feet away, the seventh farthest distance in the NHL this season. While that measurement has shots coming from around the face-off dots, given that it’s an average, we can infer that he struggles from point shots a bit more than the average netminder.
Crashing the net was a need against the Predators, but the New York Islanders just struggled to get bodies to the front early.
What that did was allowed Lankinen to get into a groove. Even when the Islanders did up the pressure in the third period, Lankinen stayed locked in and was phenomenal, stopping 48 of 49.
Most NHL teams, defensively, put an emphasis on boxing out their opponents, doing what they can to allow their netminders a clear sight of the puck. But New York Islanders captain Anders Lee shared Friday night that boxing out was not the reason for their struggles to crash the net.
“No, not tonight. I don’t think that was the key. I think it was more we gotta get guys there,” Lee said.
NYI Hockey Now asked defenseman Ryan Pulock if the defensemen have to change their game plan at the point when the forwards are not in front of the opposing netminder.
“I think we all just got to do our job,” Pulock said. So, you know, we’re just trying to get pucks there and force them to get there. I thought they made a good adjustment later, really battling in front and really getting a lot of traffic there.”
And Pulock was right.
The New York Islanders generated much more in the third period because they had bodies in front, which led to rebound opportunities and chaos. They outshot the Predators 22-7 in the final frame, but besides the Mathew Barzal power-play goal, the Islanders could not solve Lankinen at five-on-five.
“Well, I think there were probably moments when we needed more traffic,” Lambert said postgame. “And you never know. If we did, perhaps one goes in. But I thought we did a good job of generating chances. Their goaltender played well.”
The Islanders did have what appeared to be a goal halfway through the first period, but Lankinen was able to keep the puck from completely crossing the goal line. Had the Islanders had a few bodies in front of goal on the play, there’s a good chance one of them could have poked the loose puck in.
This was called no goal on the ice. Kevin Lankinen with a pretty unconventional save, using the edge of his skate to pull the puck over the line. pic.twitter.com/diqa68GJCw
— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) December 3, 2022
“I think there [needs to be] more consistent net presence. So when those shots do come through…there were times when we were off to the side of the net, and that’s not going to get it done,” Lambert said. “Any goalie, certainly in this league, if they can see the puck, clearly, they’re going to make the save. So that would be one point of emphasis.”
The NewYork Islanders were on the ice for practice Saturday afternoon, and NYI Hockey Now caught up with Matt Martin and Zach Parise to discuss what played a part in their inability to get to the net.
“Lane kind of addressed it after the first. I think we got better during the second period with it. But you know, sometimes everyone’s working hard out there, creating chances, and then you get the puck up to the point, and guys are almost moving around too much, and they don’t have enough of a presence,” Matt Martin said. “So you see it on video. You bring it to your attention, and then you kind of put an emphasis [on it], focus on it.”
“I think we had more of that in the second half of the game. We weren’t able to tie it up, but we certainly had a lot more looks. That’s what you want at the end of the day, and we have a lot of big bodies, so we’re continuing to get to the net. That’s how we’re going to succeed.”
Following up on Lee’s comments about boxing out not being the issue, Martin added that every team tries to box them out. It plays a part in every game but added that it’s a mindset sometimes too.
“Lee’s a guy that’s always at the net more often than not. I like to be. Zach [Parise] is another one who is always there. But you know, if Zach gets the puck in the corner, I think sometimes it’s not other guys’ first nature [to get to the front], either,” Martin said. “So it gets brought up in video, brought to their attention, and then you start with some guys putting a little more focus on thinking about getting there a little more often.”
NYI Hockey Now asked Zach Parise if it was as simple as just having the will to get to the crease.
“I don’t think it has to do with will,” Parise said. “I think, I mean, everyone wants to score goals. I thought they did a good job of boxing out. But at the same time, we watched some stuff..there were some areas that we feel like we could have had some better presence at the net, that we just, for whatever reason, we didn’t have it.”
“I thought we did a much better job of getting people around the net set and the third. But, again, I don’t think there’s anything intentional. I think guys have great intentions, but just sometimes there’s different areas of your game that can slip, and you know, that was something that in the first two periods that we really should have done better athletes.”
Lambert followed up on his postgame comments:
“Well, I thought at times we got out of our structure in the offensive zone a little bit which we talked about and worked on today, But certainly, we got our opportunities that game. It could have been a different story, but it wasn’t.”
As for if there needs to be more of an emphasis when a player like a Parise goes to the corner for teammates to fill his spot in front of the netminder:
“Definitely. That has to happen. There’s no question about it. Somebody has to be there,” Lane said.
Sebastian Aho Shares His Perspective From Blue Line
Q: If you do not see bodies in front of goal, does it impact your decision-making?
A: “I mean, if you got it on the line, you see that no one’s no one’s in front, sometimes you still shoot it and try and keep it low, as you say, but I mean, I like seeing the people in front of the net more, so we can actually shoot for sticks.”
Q: How important are screens in today’s NHL?
A: “I mean, goalies are good in this league. If they see the shot, they’re more often than not going to save, especially from the blue line. So I mean, that’s, that’s one of the things we’ve talked about as a group that we just got to get in front of them so we can give ourselves maybe not the first shot going in, but if they don’t see it, that creates chaos and we can get the rebound.”
Q: On a shot from the point with bodies in front, are you shooting to score, or are you shooting for the deflection?
A: “Depends. I mean, if I got plenty of time, and yeah, it’s a great screen, then I try to pinpoint that and try to score, of course. But if there’s, I mean, more often than not, there’s three, four bodies in front of goal, you kind of just try to get [the puck] through everybody or hit a stick. It’s very situational, but I mean, if I can, I try to score from out there every time.”
Q: When there are bodies in front, do you look to keep the shot on the lower side?
A: “Just around his pads kinda, so he can’t just catch the puck.”