It’s a rarity these days when the New York Islanders find the back of the net on the power play. So much so that even head coach Barry Trotz acknowledged it recently, in part saying that he hopes it doesn’t lose them games when they’re out there.
So it was surprising, to say the least when the Islanders potted not one, but two goals on the man-advantage on Saturday night in their 6-3 loss to the Washington Capitals. In one night they had nearly tied their total number of power-play goals in the previous 10 games before that.
The Islanders’ power play hasn’t necessarily cost them games, but with the team struggling offensively, it hasn’t nearly done enough to help them turn the course of games.
“What happens when your power play is not going, you look for the pretty play,” Trotz said. “You’re looking for that because it’s not going easy. You’ve got to simplify. You’ve got to move the puck quicker and you have to have that attack mode mentality.”
That has certainly been the Islanders’ problem for a while, but it has become even more pronounced with the way that they’ve been playing over the past few weeks. The power play has become more of a momentum killer — save for Saturday night — than a momentum builder.
The New York Islanders have gone 5-for-33 since April 1, and that includes the Islanders’ most recent game with Washington. New York had been 1-for-15 in the five games prior to Saturday.
During that five-game span, the Islanders had an xGF of 2.26 and they recorded just one actual goal in that span, according to Natural Stat Trick. And their Corsi For percentage during that stretch 84.09, which put them in the lower half of the league during that period of time.
Things only slightly improved when factoring in Saturday’s 2-for-2 night on the man-advantage. Even that wasn’t enough to pull out a win for New York.
The power play struggles have been nothing new for New York, not just this season, but since Trotz arrived in 2018 and even before that. The Islanders have always seemed to have a habit of overthinking things on the power play instead of putting shots on the net.
“To me, at times we will break pressure, we’ll make a great play,” Trotz explained. “We have that window to attack and create a lot of chaos or create an opening where someone will get free and we don’t step into that window. We don’t attack it and we let people reset and then (the other team) gets their angles. They get their pressure points under control again and now you have nothing.”
The irony of the whole thing is that the Islanders managed to take advantage of their opportunities on Saturday, but their five-on-five game and goaltending didn’t get the job done. It was the Islanders’ power play that led the comeback before the Isles ultimately let the game slip away.
The New York Islanders pressured Washington and put the puck on the net creating that “chaos” and allowing New York to attack. It was the opposite of their first game on Thursday when the Islanders spent most of their two man-advantages passing the puck around.
“When the penalty killers don’t have to move a whole lot or they’re pressuring and you get nothing sustained, then it just means our power play is stagnant and they’re not really working for each other,” Trotz said. “They’re expecting one guy to make a play to someone than the five guys out working the penalty killers. Sometimes the best power play are having the five-on-five mentality, even though it’s five-on-four. It’s not necessarily having as much structure, but having the ability to move the puck, get open, get into those hard areas and attack the net.”
For the number of chances the Islanders have been getting on the man-advantage most nights they need to capitalize on their chances, especially while they maneuver their way out of the current funk that they find themselves in.
On nights when the Islanders find themselves in a playoff-type, low-scoring game that power-play goal could make the difference between one point or two in the standings or even a win or a loss. With Washington, Boston and Pittsburgh all seemingly picking up points on a nightly basis the Islanders need its special teams unit to step up to help keep them in the fight for home ice in the postseason.