Insanity: Repeating the same act over and over again and expecting the same result. The New York Islanders power play is on a three-for-51 slide ( 5.88 percent) and just one-for-13 during their five-game homestand (1-2-2).
To start the homestand, New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert went back to his original top power-play unit but switched up the second group:
PP #: (net front-slot-RW-LW-point)
PP1: Anders Lee-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Mathew Barzal-Brock Nelson-Noah Dobson
PP2: Zach Parise-Anthony Beauvillier-Josh Bailey-Ryan Pulock-Dennis Cholowski
On their first opportunity against the Dallas Stars on Jan. 10, Lee scored on the power play as he deflected home a Brock Nelson shot.
They have yet to score since.
After an 0-for-five night in a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert did not hold back.
“Our power play has to get something going for us,” Lambert said.
On the five chances, the Islanders’ power-play units combined for just five shots on goal. NYI Hockey Now asked Lambert if he thought they were getting the chances and not executing or if there were more chances to be had.
“I think it’s inconsistent. There are times when we have had good power plays and get good opportunities. But the consistency isn’t there. We’ve got to get more pucks to the net.”
Barzal knows the power play is costing them games.
“It killed us tonight,” Barzal said. “It’s lost us some games recently, and it just has to be better. That’s the bottom line.”
This season, the Islanders’ power play is being run by John MacLean, who led the San Jose Sharks to the 11th worst power play in the NHL in 2021-22 at 18 percent. And that’s a power play that had Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier on it.
Under John Gruden, from 2018-22, the Islanders’ power play executed at an 18.1 percent clip, so the power play has been an issue for quite some time.
Get a Finisher
The New York Islanders have players that can score. There’s no question about that, as we have seen it. Whether we are referring to Nelson, Barzal, or Noah Dobson, to name a few, they can pot pucks.
Nelson hasn’t scored in 14 games. Barzal hasn’t scored in five games. And Dobson hasn’t scored in 11 games.
But regardless, that superstar finisher isn’t here.
Look at the Bruins, who have over three elite finishers on the roster, who all play on the power play, with a nifty defenseman at the point in Charlie McAvoy, who moves the puck quickly and, more importantly, sneakily.
It seems that every other team has a star goal scorer, while the Islanders’ star is a playmaker in Barzal. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as that player has a finisher to play with. It’s a glaring need that general manager Lou Lamoriello has not addressed in his four-plus seasons at the helm.
It was a need before Lamoriello even got to the island.
Any of the top names on the market, whether it be Bo Horvat, Meier, or Patrick Kane, automatically makes the Islanders’ power play a threat because eyes will go to them, creating time and space for other players.
Now’s the time to do it if the Islanders want to make their power play a threat again because, right now, it’s a non-threat.
Quantity Over Quality
Lambert said he wants his players to get more shots on net. So, do that.
The Islanders tend to pass up shooting lanes when they prevent themselves, whether it’s a catch-and-shoot or a one-time option.
And obviously, there are situations where the pass back to the point is needed if the penalty killers are too aggressive and hop into the shooting lanes early.
Besides those instances, the Islanders should be firing shots left and right, given the players in front on both units.
At times, they are, but Nelson’s shot misses the net, or Mathew Barzal doesn’t find the corner–which happens–but it can’t continue at this rate.
On the top unit, Pageau has strong hand-eye coordination, and maybe the softer shots, rather than the one-timer each time, will create more deflection opportunities. And then you have Lee in front to clean up rebounds.
Both players can provide the traffic to screen goaltenders, but if the shots aren’t coming, their role doesn’t serve much purpose.
Zach Parise is the perfect net-front presence guy on the second power-play unit. This group doesn’t get a lot of minutes, but when they do, they haven’t capitalized either.
Unlike the first one, this unit has two defensemen, making Ryan Pulock the one-time option on the left side.
Parise told NYI Hockey Now that providing a screen for Pulock’s shot doesn’t make much sense.
“Honestly, he [Pulock] doesn’t want me in front of it. I mean, from that one-timer, you’re going to beat the goalie, or you’re not. For a net-front guy, that’s a tough one to screen,” Parise said. “I mean, you feel like that type of shot, the more bodies that are in front of it, the more chance of me blocking it than it going in.”
“But yeah, it’s more so if it doesn’t go in, hopefully, it sits right there.”
The problem is consistency for Pulock in terms of hitting the net.
Over this pitiful three-for-50 stretch, the New York Islanders have 64 shots, 1.28 shots per power-play chance.
That number is skewed a bit, as the Islanders racked up 14 power-play shots on five opportunities against the Arizona Coyotes in a 5-4 loss on Dec. 16.
Something’s got to give for New York, and if not, the power play will be blamed for why the Islanders miss the postseason for a second-straight season. And if they do find a way to sneak into the playoffs, the power play has to be effective if they are going to go on a run.