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Islanders Mailbag: Thrilling Overtime Win, Offense ‘Not Good Enough’



New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal and goaltender Semyon Varlamov (Photo courtesy of New York Islanders Twitter)
New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal and goaltender Semyon Varlamov (Photo courtesy of New York Islanders Twitter)

With back-to-back wins heading into the 2023 All-Star break, the New York Islanders have put themselves just two points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who sit in the second wild-card spot. The Penguins do have three games in hand on the Islanders, but it just so happens that the two sides face each other three times before the season concludes.

While these wins, especially Saturday night’s 2-1 overtime win over the Vegas Golden Knights, took some much-needed weight off the players and head coach Lane Lambert, the offense has still been an issue.

Let’s dive in:

Why doesn’t Barzal trust his shot more? (@poniesNpucks)

If you didn’t see, Mathew Barzal sniped Golden Knights netminder Logan Thompson over the blocker side arm (usually glove side) for the overtime winner. He entered the game with no goals in 10 straight, but it wasn’t from a lack of shooting, with 22 shots.

However, he had reverted to passing a lot more, and one has to think that’s a mental thing. When the goals aren’t coming, you doubt yourself and feel the need to set someone else up, as we saw with Barzal passing to Anthony Beauvillier on the 2-on-0 Saturday.

Barzal has a wicked release, and when he went on that six-game goal streak, the confidence in his shot was never higher one would assume scoring an overtime goal via a snipe will have him shooting a bit more when we return from the break.

Outside of the Vancouver game (6), they didn’t score many goals this month. So a four-point weekend scoring 4 goals in 120 plus minutes – I will take it and hope their scoring issues are behind them and the team can relax, accumulate points, and reach the postseason.(@cjpapa13)

Listen, the offense is clearly an issue. Not including the Canucks game, the Islanders have scored 1.64 goals per game, scoring three goals just once. That’s not sustainable, and without strong goaltending, which has been a theme all season, the Islanders are in trouble.

But at the very least, they found a way to bear down, play some of their stronger defensive games over the last two, and notch four critical points to keep them in the playoff race.

They are playing like a complete team and for a longer stretch of time! The biggest concern is we start winning, and then Lambert thinks no trades are necessary, and we shit the bed again! Tonight was Varly’s game, and loved Barzal getting the winning goal! (@MuzicHealsMe)

Well, fun fact, Lane Lambert has no say in what general manager Lou Lamoriello is doing. Assuming you meant Lamoriello, he’s not clueless as people tend to believe. He knows the offense needs help. One would think that even if they come out of the break winning a few games, the offense remains an issue, and Lamoriello will still be searching for that game-changing forward.

Now, if the offense comes out of the gate and is scoring over three goals a game, as we saw earlier in the season, that likely does change things–even with a sniper still a main need if they want to damage in the postseason.

As a fringe playoff team (and if they continue to be so), do you see Lou being more aggressive to get an impact forward, or does he continue to be conservative and go for depth? Just looking for what you sense he would do? (@coachjeff_24)

This is not the season to go for depth because making the playoffs, albeit an improvement from last season, is not the measuring stick. It’s Stanley Cup or bust since Lamoriell came here–especially with an aging core that is running out of opportunities. The need to bring in significant help, a sniper and a veteran defenseman, and even another depth forward, is how the Islanders become a Stanley Cup contender.

I was just wondering, do you think New York Islanders should retool like the Rangers did or a complete rebuild? In other words, do they sell or buy or both (@islandersny)

There’s no need for a complete rebuild because there are young pieces to build around already in place. Mathew Barzal is here for another eight years. Aatu Räty, Simon Holmstrom, Noah Dobson, Alexander Romanov, Samuel Bolduc, and Oliver Wahlstrom are all 23 and under. Ilya Sorokin is in his prime, so the pieces are here. If the Islanders are out of the picture by over five points, selling seems to be the wisest decision. The Islanders can get assets back and allow those young players mentioned (besides Wahlstrom, who’s likely done for the season) more NHL minutes, as this is valuable development time.

1.5 goals per game. Not good enough. You can’t win consistently like that. (@DavidMoss21)
The only way a team can win consistently like that is if their defense and goaltending can be. The Islanders have been given tremendous goaltending by Ilya Sorokin and this season, and the defense over the last two games has been rather strong.

If the defense can continue to play as it has, then this Islanders team can win like that. We’ve seen it. But getting a few more goals certainly takes a ton of pressure off the backend and goaltending to have to be perfect on a nightly basis.

Aside from the outcome, I am not too thrilled by the overtime. We were awfully sloppy and careless with the puck. (@jmazurkewich1)

That overtime was a wild one. The Islanders were a bit sloppy, especially with staying on their man, as we saw when William Carrier snuck behind Adam Pelech, forcing him to “take” a penalty leading to a penalty shot.

Pelech also could not get off the ice, as he was stuck on the ice for a good while, playing 1:29 in overtime. While hemmed in their own zone, Pelech kept trying to change, but his teammates continued to pass him the puck, leading to turnovers and chances against.

The Islanders were outshot 4-1 in overtime. And after winning the first three overtime games of the season, the Islanders had lost their last five games before Saturday night. It hadn’t been pretty as of late, but they found a way.

Fix the damn power play (@MoneyAllDay30)

The power play continues to be in a funk. After going 0-for-1 on Saturday night, the Islanders have gone 24 straight chances without a power-play goal and are three for their last 64. It’s been a mess as personnel seems to be the issue, not the system, as the power play has not been good in years.

They are at 15.5 percent, which is ranked 31st in the NHL.

If the New York Islanders want to make the playoffs, the power play needs to start providing support. And if the Islanders do find a way into the postseason, power-play effectiveness is critical, as the scoring chances become few and far between.

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