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Postgame Mailbag: Islanders No Match For Speedy Devils, Trouble Incoming?

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New York Islanders

The New York Islanders were no match for the speedy New Jersey Devils on Thursday night. From the start, the Islanders found themselves on their heels, as it was all Devils. The Islanders only recorded 17 shots on goal after putting up at least 30 in the previous three contests. Ilya Sorokin was the standout, stopping 39 of 42 shots to keep the game close.

“I don’t think we played a team with that kind of speed,” Mathew Barzal said postgame. Yeah, that’s a fast hockey club over there.”

READ MORE: ‘Extremely, Extremely Disappointing’: Lambert Knocks Islanders Effort

Now, the New York Islanders head to Florida for a back-to-back with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, two teams equally as fast as the Devils.

After that, they face the fast-paced New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes, and Colorado Avalanche.

There’s no question the New York Islanders were outworked Thursday night, and the Devils are by no means a juggernaut team in the NHL. These upcoming opponents are, and an effort like that against any of them is likely to result in a lopsided loss.

The players were not happy with the way they played, and head coach Lane Lambert was visibly upset with what transpired.

There’s nothing that can be done to erase the result. It’s about making the adjustments, putting this game in the past, and playing the way they played against the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks this past Saturday and Tuesday when the puck drops Saturday night in Tampa.

Now, to your questions, comments, and concerns in the latest NYI Hockey Now Postgame Mailbag:

Last year wasn’t a series of bad luck and circumstance… this team is mediocre…. (@hmgigante)

There should certainly be disappointment from the New York Islanders faithful following what transpired on the ice Thursday. But that was not the same Islanders team we saw in the 7-1 rout of the Anaheim Ducks or the 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks. It’s not even the same team we saw against the Florida Panthers, in their 3-1 loss on opening night.

I think it’s a bit premature to write off the Islanders in 2022-23, as they have shown an uptick in aggressiveness and offensive chances, and for the most part, have played sound defense. This upcoming weekend will be a true test to see where the Islanders are at.

This was a flat, uninspired performance. It looked like there was no communication. They were way off their game. (@mrscraigiscray)

Talking to the players and head coach Lane Lambert, the Islanders credited the New Jersey Devils for how they came out. The Islanders were never able to establish their game as they got trapped in the speed game, a game they lose more often than not, given the personnel on their roster.

The passing was not crisp, the communication was poor, and the inability to transition gave them little to no chance at garnering shots on Devils netminder Mackenzie Blackwood, who is a below-average NHL starter.

“Everybody saw [that] we weren’t at our best, but we got new games coming,” Robin Salo said. “We just gotta look forward and try to get a better start next game.”

Can we not play sloppy for once, learn to pass, please? (@Always_Yangry)

The biggest issue for the New York Islanders, besides being stuck in their own zone, was their inability to break out when they did get the puck. Passes did not connect, and the turnover count climbed and climb, which led to a rather low shot attempt count (21).

The sloppy passing has been a theme so far this season, but in the last two contests prior, the ability to score masked those issues. But this issue was front and center in the lopsided loss to the Devils.

Against dominant teams like the Panthers and the Lightning, an ability to make crisp passes will have them fishing pucks out of the net often. The Islanders have the defense to play against anyone in the NHL, but they need to play their game, not get caught playing their opponents.

One thing, where’s Barzal? (@goldennjet)

Mathew Barzal may have four points in four games, but he has looked like anything but himself early this season. I shared a tweet about this while the third period was dwindling down.

On a slower team, Barzal is one of the few players that can use his speed and edge work to his advantage on a nightly basis, but I couldn’t tell you one time when he showed off the edge work against the Devils.

The New York Islanders, especially when the team is struggling, need their top players to help get things going, and we just did not see that from Barzal on Thursday.

Against the tougher opponents, the Islanders will need an active Barzal, the Barzal that they are paying $9.15 million to annually. Despite being the Islanders’ most talented player, he cannot be the only player that comes to work.

But there’s no question, and he would tell you, that he certainly needs to be better.

It’s one game… one eye-gouging awful game, but only one game (@islesordie)

That’s the beauty of sports. The New York Islanders started their season off with a loss. They put that one behind them and won two straight, albeit against weak opponents. They had the chance to end their homestand with three straight wins but did not bring their “A” game, let alone their “B” game Thursday night.

But they have played four games in an 82-game season, which gives them 78 more games to right the ship and find a way to finish in a playoff spot.

It’s about building on wins and moving on from losses. There’s ebbs and flows throughout a season, something that former New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz often said over his tenure behind the Islanders’ bench. The concern lies if they come out flat against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

The Islanders will lose games, and although a loss is a loss, it does matter how a team loses. You could be the better team and lose. You could be outworked and lose. The Islanders, for as dreadful as they played Thursday, the hat needs to be tipped to the New Jersey Devils–because they put together their best game of the young season.

They were suffocating and gave the Islanders zero chance. Yes, the Islanders did not help themselves, but the impeccable forechecking by New Jersey is what forced the Islanders into making weak plays.

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