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Islanders Not Sacrificing Defensive Structure Despite Aggressive Style, ‘Defense First’



New York Islanders, Scott Mayfield
New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield celebrating with Alexander Romanov following Mayfield's go-ahead goal (Photo: Courtesy of New York Islanders Twitter)

The most noticeable difference for the New York Islanders under head coach Lane Lambert has been his aggressive style out of the gate. Through two games, the New York Islanders have 71 shots on goal, 30-plus shots in each contest which has created numerous offensive chances.

In game one of the season against the Florida Panthers, the Islanders failed to capitalize enough, with just one goal on 33 shots. But on Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks, the Islanders took advantage of their opportunities.

On Monday, NYI Hockey Now dug into the early dominancy of the New York Islanders defenseman’s impact on the scoreboard and if there was any concern regarding the lack of offensive output from the forward group, given that the Islanders have scored eight total goals on the season, six coming from the backend.

Defense Doing the Most, Lack of Forward Production Concerning?

Despite the already noticeable aggressiveness by the defense, the New York Islanders still have a defense-first mentality.

“Defense first,” defenseman Robin Salo shared following Monday’s practice. “You just got to take care of our own, and you know, play and play simple they get the play quick, but then if you have a chance to join the offense, you know, you gotta take your chances there too.”

A significant reason why the defenseman and Islanders were able to have success Saturday and why they were able to keep the game relatively close on Thursday was because of their defensive work. That strong defensive structure allows for easier transitions up the ice.

Saturday was a perfect example of what happens when the defense does its job and how it immediately translates to offensive opportunities.

“I mean, it usually starts there [in the defensive zone],” Robin Salo shared. “The better you play in the defensive zone, the more energy you’re going to have coming up the ice, so for sure, it starts there.”

Through two games, the New York Islanders have allowed four goals and have held both their opponents to under 30 shots (FLA-29, ANA-23). Out of those combined 52 shots on goal, only 19 have been high-danger chances for the opponents, with netminder Ilya Sorokin stopping 18 of them.

For a comparison, Florida Panthers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, through three games, has faced 28 high-danger shots.

As a group, the Islanders have blocked 45 total shots, 22.50 shots per sixty minutes, which currently ranks first in the NHL (small sample size). First year Islander Alexander Romanov has 14 of the 45 (31%).

More on Alexander Romanov and his game later over at NYI Hockey Now.

What adds to the Islanders strong defensive game so far has been their ability to win more than fifty-percent of their defensive zone draws, currently at 54.17% through the two games.

Now, if we want to dive into the penalty kill, the New York Islanders are a perfect nine-for-nine on the season to start, allowing just nine shots against. That’s a key part to their defense.

The New York Islanders play a San Jose Sharks team on Thursday that has stumbled out of the gate, dropping their first four games in regulation. If the New York Islanders can defend the way they have defended to start the season, this game should go like the Saturday’s game went.


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