The New York Islanders have shown vast improvement on the offensive side of the puck this season, as they have averaged 3.19 goals per game through 27 games (86 goals) after just 2.79 a year ago. But the increase in production has had a lot to do with the members of the backend, as 20 of those goals have come via defensemen.
Centerman Brock Nelson leads the New York Islanders with 12 goals, with the remaining 54 goals being spread out amongst the forward positions.
Besides Zach Parise, who now has nine goals in 26 games and has been a consistent threat on a nightly basis, too many wingers have struggled to provide a consistent scoring touch this season.
And with their latest loss, a 7-5 defeat to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night, the Islanders dropped to the first wild-card spot. With the lack of production by a handful of wingers, can the Islanders sustain their playoff push?
All upcoming statistics are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.
Islanders Cold Wingers
New York Islanders captain Anders Lee got off to a tremendous start, with eight goals through the first 14 games with six assists. In the last 13 games, the 32-year-old winger has not scored a goal, with just six assists. Over these last 14 games, Lee has 12 shots on goal with an Expected Goals For of just 2.65 (five-on-five).
Lee leads the team with 32 scoring chances and 12 high-danger chances over that span, as he has struggled to bury his created chances.
Through 27 games, Lee has eight goals and 12 assists.
What hasn’t helped Lee has been the play of linemate Anthony Beauvillier, who has failed to rebound after a lackluster 2021-22 season.
Through 26 games, Beauvillier has just five goals with six assists. After two goals in his first five games, three in his first eight, the 25-year-old has just two over his last 18 games. He’s struggled on a nightly basis, with his performance against the St. Louis Blues one of his worst of the season.
He had a few giveaways, lost a few pucks while the Islanders tried to transition, iced the puck a few times, and made a few questionable decisions.
Given Beauvillier’s speed, he should be a threat on a nightly basis, but too often, he has been invisible. He does rank third amongst the forward group in chances for, at 73, but his point total (11) ranks seventh.
Out of all the forwards, the longest-tenured Islander, Josh Bailey, has struggled the most.
Despite Lambert never criticizing any of his players in the media, Bailey has been a healthy scratch four times this season. When in the lineup, he has struggled to provide not just consistent offense but consistent play.
In 22 games, Bailey has just four goals and three assists.
Lambert has shuffled Bailey from the first line to the third line. With the emergence of Simon Holmstrom, who has played well alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Zach Parise, Lambert has often lined Bailey up with Mathew Barzal and Oliver Wahlstrom.
Despite Bailey’s hockey IQ, he has not shown that he belongs alongside Barzal and has also struggled on the third line.
Over his last 10 games, Bailey has a goal and an assist.
On the season, Bailey has created 33 scoring opportunities and has recorded the fourth-fewest shots on goal amongst the forward group with 32 (five-on-five).
As much as Oliver Wahlstrom has taken strides on the defensive side of the puck and has become a two-way forward in year four, he has not served as the consistent sniper the Islanders need him to be.
In 25 games, the 22-year-old has six goals and six assists, with just one goal in his last 10 contests. He’s third on the team with 50 shots and is third on the team with 54 individual scoring chances, but in terms of production, he ranks seventh (five-on-five).
Injured Islanders & Their Replacements
The Islanders are currently without Kyle Palmieri, who missed his seventh-straight game with an upper-body injury. In 20 games this season, Palmieri has six goals and three assists. After going scoreless in his first six games, two goals over the first 10, Palmieri scored four goals in his last 10 contests before the injury.
In his place, rookie Simon Holmstrom has played well but has yet to score a goal in seven contests.
Fourth-line forward Cal Clutterbuck had two goals in 22 games before missing the last three games with an undisclosed injury. His replacement in the previous two games has been 29-year-old Hudson Fasching, who scored his first goal as an Islander Tuesday night.
The Islanders have had too many passengers offensively this season. As mentioned, the members of the backend have played a critical role in the offense’s success, but the Islanders are starting to lose the games they were winning earlier in the season.
The Islanders have registered over 40 shots in each of the last four contests but have just won two of those games.
Success for New York has always come when they could run all four lines on a nightly basis.
Even when the Islanders have played well this season, Lambert has very rarely been able to rely on all four lines, always making tweaks to the lineup to try to get the most out of certain players.
It seems that the Islanders will only get more production out of their winger position by upgrading that position before or at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline. Like their neighbors on Broadway, the New York Rangers, if the Islanders do not get help soon at the forward position, whether it be certain players stepping up or via an acquisition, the Islanders will have a difficult time staying in the playoff race.
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Looking back at the winger position, there should not be much concern with the play of Lee or Wahlstrom, as both have been creating chances and have played vital roles this season that the stat line may not show.
But for Bailey and Beauvillier, the struggles have been problematic, to the point where their futures as everyday players in the lineup is anything but a certainty.