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New York Islanders

Three Issues From The Islanders’ Three-Game Losing Streak



AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

It hasn’t been the best of starts to the regular season for the New York Islanders.

Following a pair of back-to-back losses this past weekend and another on Tuesday night, the Islanders are in the midst of their first losing streak of the year.

As is usually the case, this losing streak isn’t the result of just one issue but multiple that are piling on top of one another.

Poor Execution Of Defensive Structure:

The foundation of the Islanders’ identity for the last handful of years has suddenly begun to show cracks.

Dating back to the preseason, the Islanders have struggled to settle into head coach Lane Lambert’s new defensive system.

“The individual mistakes are within the structure,” Lambert said following the Islanders’ 7-4 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday. “The structure breaks down when individual mistakes are made.”

Even players like Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock are having a hard time in the new system. The two have long been relied upon as defensive stalwarts and are being stretched thin while the whole team adjusts.

“Sometimes we just need to be sharper in little areas,” Pulock said following the Islanders’ 7-4 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday. “Sometimes we’re maybe backchecking too much and giving them lanes down. It’s something that has hurt us a little bit the last few games and something that we’re going to have to make sure we clean up.”

Have To Be Quicker Than That:

Team speed was already a concern for the Islanders, and it’s become even more so during this three-game stretch.

Up against the New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres and Colorado Avalanche, all of which possess high-end speed and skill, the Islanders have been outclassed. They’ve failed to establish a steady forecheck and aren’t generating enough speed to put together fluid transitions through the neutral zone, leading to costly turnovers.

“Through the neutral zone, just our puck management, it has to be better,” Lambert said after the Islanders lost in Buffalo on Oct. 21. “The intentions are good, but unintended consequences come along with that. When you turn the puck over, and certainly against fast teams in transition, then you find yourself back in your own zone and spending way too much time there.”

In the second period against Colorado, a smooth transition game powered by quick skating and puck movement helped the Islanders take the lead in what was the best 20 minutes of hockey they’ve recently played and will need to continue to snap their current skid.

“I think it’s just a question of being able to execute from your own goal line, to get it down to the other end with speed,” Cal Clutterbuck said. “We were trying to get it in, but we didn’t have as much speed on the puck. We did a better job of that throughout the second half of the game, and you see the result.”

Playing Undisciplined:

If the Islanders clean up those other aspects, it won’t make a difference if they continue to shoot themselves in the foot with unnecessary penalties.

This was largely an issue in the 5-4 overtime loss to New Jersey on Oct. 20, a game the Islanders nearly won despite giving up four power-play goals, but it’s a common theme in all three losses.

The Islanders have averaged five penalties a game throughout their losing streak, with Pelech, Casey Cizikas and Pierre Engvall all taking two each.

Under the added stress, the Islanders’ penalty-killing unit has started to break, as it now ranks 28th in the NHL at 68.8% after beginning the year a perfect 7-7 through their first two games.

Even when the Islanders do succeed in killing a penalty, the ones they take are still hurtful.

In the third period against Colorado, the Islanders had the chance to tie the game while on a four-minute power-play. But Mathew Barzal’s two-minute minor for boarding negated the golden opportunity.

Then again, who is to say it would’ve mattered? The power play is once again an issue for the Islanders, but you’ve read that plenty of times before already.




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