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Islanders Seeing Growth in Game, but Trotz Still Looking for Next Level

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New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz

New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has often talked about the Islanders still not performing at their peak. The veteran head coach has often said that the Islanders still have another level they could play at.

On Saturday night against a Winnipeg Jets team that had been rolling, the Islanders had a strong effort from the top line, which scored the game’s opening goal, to the fourth line in a 2-0 victory. Unlike their previous contest in Montreal on Thursday, the Islanders didn’t take their foot off the gas as the game progressed.

New York clamped down in the third period with Brock Nelson scoring his seventh goal of the year 47 seconds in and Ilya Sorokin stopped all 24 shots that he faced. So where did the effort land the Islanders on the Barry Trotz meter?

“Well I thought we were about an 85. I thought it was a more complete game, it was a 60-minute game,” Trotz said. “There’s still another level and the level would be with some of the finish. We had some opportunities we just didn’t finish, but they’re subtle things. … I would say it was an 85 percent versus the 70 percent that we were probably at.”

The win in Winnipeg had the feel of a classic Islanders win. New York suffocated Winnipeg’s high-powered offense that was averaging three goals per game by severely limiting their chances.

Winnipeg was held to just 24 shots on net and kept to the outside, which has been a part of the Islanders’ defensive strategy in the past. While the Islanders did allow 58 shot attempts on Saturday night, they only allowed Winnipeg six high danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick.

By Comparison, the New York Islanders had 15 high danger chances.

It had been a slow return to form for the New York Islanders, who started off the year dropping their first two games, but have since picked up points in seven straight contests. Brock Nelson and the adjusted second line have found a resurgence during that stretch, the top line clicked on Saturday and the fourth line’s physical presence is being felt on the ice.

The third line of Oliver Wahlstrom, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Zach Parise have generated chances and Wahlstrom has had a strong start to his full-82 game season.

For Trotz, when it comes to where the Islanders’ play needs to optimally be in his eyes there is still room for improvement. And at the end of the day, it comes down to the details in the team’s game regardless of lines.

It’s very apparent that the way Mathew Barzal’s line plays is not as physical as the way the identity line plays, but what doesn’t change is the structure in their game.

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“It doesn’t matter if it’s Barzal’s line or Cizikas’ line, they have the same mentality,” Trotz said before Saturday’s game. “They still have the same foundation of how you break out pucks. How you break out of the neutral zone. How you forecheck. It’s all detailed and it’s all sort of scripted. It looks the same. … The systematic stuff is exactly the same and it’s done with more precision. It’s done with a little bit more of a plan, where everybody is on the plan. I would say your execution, to me, adds trust and speed to your game.”

Trotz has seen that at different points in games, but it hadn’t had that element in their game as consistently as the Islanders coach would like. Saturday was another step in the right direction for the New York Islanders, but there are still some things to clean up.

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