The New York Islanders, despite an 11-8-0 record, need a forward to help stabilize their lineup.
Pick your player, whether it’s Bo Horvat, Timo Meier, Vladimir Tarasenko, or another goal scorer, the Islanders need to make an upgrade.
While the New York Islanders have scored the seventh most goals in the NHL (63) and have averaged the 12th most per game (3.32), it’s been the goaltending, for the most part this season, that has allowed for success.
At five-on-five play, the Islanders have been out-chanced 495-446, allowing opponents 211 high-danger chances to their 178. Now, one player won’t magically even that up, but it will certainly help close the gap.
Early in the season, the penalty kill had been New York’s biggest strength, but they have struggled as of late, just when the power play had started to turn things around.
Following Thursday’s 5-4 loss to the Nashville Predators, we wrote a story on how Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello’s inability or unwillingness to add a forward this summer has led to head coach Lane Lambert’s latest lineup decisions, focusing on the dressing of Ross Johnston due to Josh Bailey’s struggles.
By not having a consistent goal scorer outside of Brock Nelson and Anders Lee, a game-changing weapon, losses like we saw against the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, a 5-2 defeat, will happen at a higher rate.
The biggest issue for the Islanders on the night, besides their struggles to stay compact in their zone, was their limited success on the power play.
To be blunt, the Dallas Stars gave the Islanders every chance to win that game by playing an undisciplined brand of hockey that led to five power-play opportunities.
The Islanders scored on their third power play of the contest–that’s it.
On the night, the Islanders recorded six total shots on the five chances. Only one was considered a high-danger shot per Natural Stat Trick, which was likley the Barzal goal from the slot.
For comparison, the Stars had two shorthanded shots on goal.
“We failed to get the result we wanted and in a game that I think we could have won,” Lambert said postgame.
The Islanders’ power play sits at 20.7 percent, which is a respectful number, but numbers are merely that. It’s about timely goals, and the Islanders missed out on a win in a game they needed after a brutal loss to Nashville.
And a top-end goal scorer will help a lot with timely goals, especially on the power play.
The Islanders could wait until the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline (Mar. 21) to add that caliber of a weapon, as they have $16.126 million to play with. Although the Islanders are in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 22 points, the New York Rangers also have 22 points and sit in the second wild-card spot.
The Pittsburgh Penguins sit with 21 points, the Philadelphia Flyers have 18, and the Washington Capitals have 17. The New Jersey Devils are on an absolute tear right now with 12 straight wins and are showing to be a good team, not a team just playing well right now.
They hold the top spot in the Metro, while the Carolina Hurricanes are in the no. two spot with 23 points.
As you can see, the Metropolitan Division will come down to the wire.
It’s not just the Metro that the Islanders need to be worried about. The Atlantic Division has its three juggernauts, the Boston Bruins (32 points), the Toronto Maple Leafs (24 points), and the Tampa Bay Lightning (23 points), who hold the first, second, and third spots.
The Islanders could find a way to be in a playoff spot come the deadline. Still, with how competitive the Metropolitan Division is, as well as the Atlantic, the Islanders may be playing with fire by not improving their club as soon as they can.
Lamoriello has been around the game for a while and says he’s always looking to improve his team. The question is will he pull the trigger and bring in another forward sooner than later. If the Islanders are not in a playoff spot come to the deadline, he may have to sell, which would not be ideal for a team that, regardless, needs a scorer for Mathew Barzal, as he will be island bound for another eight seasons.
Remember, with the waiving of Nikita Soshnikov earlier last week, the Islanders have an open roster spot. No one was called up but it might be worth seeing some of the prospects in action, at the very least show them off to increase their trade value.