TORONTO — Before the New York Islanders game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night, Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier spoke about the lack of finishing.
“It’s one of those things where it’s hard to explain sometimes,” Mathew Barzal said. “It’s honestly hard to explain. I feel like there’s chances every night. It’s unfortunate that some haven’t gone in sometimes.”
Anthony Beauvillier echoed Barzal.
“I mean, it’s tough to say, honestly,” Beauvillier said. “We have chances. We just can’t really put it in the back of the net, and there’s games where we deserve to win, we lost, and there’s games we [get] chances, chances, chances, especially at the end of games, and just couldn’t really put it in the back of the net.”
“[It’s] just the way it goes sometimes, and just looking to get back on track here tonight.”
Against the Maple Leafs, the Islanders generated the chances, as we’ve seen, and got secondary looks toward goal as Leafs netminder Ilya Samsonov struggled to control his rebounds. They put 33 shots on goal, with 76 total attempts, and owned an Expected Goals For of 4.53, per NaturalStatrick.com.
They scored two in a 5-2 loss.
Barzal’s goal drought reached eight games, with just one assist, while Beauvillier’s goal drought reached five with just one goal in his last 14.
Yes, Samsonov made some top-notch saves throughout the contest. But there were also a handful of point-blank shots that the Islanders fired right into his chest or glove. The Islanders failed to capitalize on a handful of loose pucks around the crease, with 15 rebound chances, scoring just one goal courtesy of Anders Lee’s first of two.
The Islanders missed 18 shots, with Lee missing the net five times. He got a stick on a few shots to his credit as he tried to re-direct them on goal, missing just wide. He did score two, so it’s hard to complain about what he did, but the hat trick was certainly there for the taking.
Kyle Palmieri, who hadn’t played hockey in 17 games, was the Islanders’ best skater on the night, generating chances, but did struggle to hit the net.
He had three misses, with seven individual scoring chances to his name.
Brock Nelson, who notched an assist to push his point streak to a modest three games, with two goals and an assist, had two shots and two misses, with seven individual scoring chances. But for about a month, Nelson had no goals and still was and is the Islanders leading goal scorer with 17.
Beauvillier had four shots on the night, four high-danger chances, but couldn’t bury.
The list continues as the Islanders continue to prove that they don’t have enough finishers to compete in a Metropolitan Division that is overrun with finishers.
Six of the eight Metropolitan teams are in the league’s top half in goals per game. The Philadelphia Flyers, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Islanders are the three teams not included, both in the bottom third. The Islanders are one of nine teams not to average 3.00 or more goals per game this season–a season where scoring is up.
In 2021-22, only 17 teams finished with over 3.00 goals per game. The 2022-23 season is still young, but the NHL is on pace to have 22 teams finish with over that number.
The Islanders’ power play has been the epicenter of the finishing problems, currently on a three-for-56 streak, 5.36 percent, after going scoreless on two opportunities against Toronto.
They sit at 16.4 percent, the fourth lowest in the NHL. Power-play coach Johnny MacLean has tried everything, but it’s the players, not the system in place.
Getting one scorer will help with the offensive production, but the incoming player and his pending production will not mask the struggles of the roster the way people think. This group needs a few, and the likelihood that general manager Lou Lamoriello acquires the team’s needs is slim–given his track record since 2018.
A week ago, following the Islanders’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals, Islanders head coach Lane Lambert was asked if he believed he had enough finishers on the roster.
“Absolutely,” Lambert said. “We’ve been creating opportunities, and there are certain guys that have been in droughts, and they’ll come out of them.”
In January, a two-win month with a 2-7-3 record, the Islanders averaged 2.00 goals per game. Over the last 10 games, 1-6-3, the Islanders have scored 1.7 goals per game.
If the defense was more locked in, the Islanders would have more wins, but that’s not the reality.
The Islanders could sneak in as a wild-card team, depending on what Lamoriello does at the deadline, and then anything can happen–as we have seen-. Still, they cannot compete with the lack of production from their forwards, especially the ones getting paid a premium to score.