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New York Islanders Veterans Need to Do More to End Losing Streak

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New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz

When it rains it pours, and for the New York Islanders, there couldn’t be a more accurate way to describe their current situation.

The Islanders have dropped eight straight games, dealt with COVID issues and lost several players to injury. Worst of all is there seems to be no clear sign on how to stop the bleeding, with even the team’s few veterans left in the lineup struggling to produce.

What has been concerning with the Islanders is that despite having six players in the lineup on Friday that were in the AHL recently, it was the veterans on the team that have struggled the most.

“Obviously it is not going our way right now,” Matt Martin said. “Can’t find the back of the net, but the effort is there. Guys are grinding away, putting everything they have into it, we just can’t seem to get that big goal and kinda push us over the top.”

All season long, the talk has been about the effort of this Islander group. And early in the season, especially with some players like Zach Parise and Kyle Palmieri, to name a few, the lack of production was not a significant concern because it seemed like they had been on the cusp of breaking through.

Flash forward to now and the results are still not coming when the Islanders need them to the most.

Parise still has not scored a goal this season and he only has one assist over his last eight games. He has 15 shots on goal over that span and, to his credit, has been skating hard each shift, but nothing has come of it.

Kyle Palmieri, who signed a four-year, $20 million contract, has not lived up to expectations early on. He has just a goal and an assist during the eight-game slide, with his 20 shots on goal leading the team over that span. Yet it is quality over quantity, as most of his shots end up going right into the goaltender’s chest.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Oliver Wahlstrom, and Anthony Beauvillier have been held without a point on during the eight-game losing streak. The three have combined for a total of 38 shots on goal, with Beauvillier’s lack of offense being one of the season’s biggest storylines, given the hopes for him entering his sixth year in the NHL.

And now Mathew Barzal.

The current situation seems all too familiar for  Barzal this season. He is currently without Anders Lee (COVID protocol) and is still without a right-winger who can finish off the chances that he creates.

Barzal has two assists over the last eight games, and while he is not relied upon for scoring goals as much as creating them, he can always make a difference with his skates and stickhandling ability.

However, Barzal has struggled in his own way during the current skid. He has coughed the puck eight times, his linemates have not finished off chances, and Barzal trying to do everything when he is out there is not a recipe for success.

Brock Nelson, who was injured (lower-body, 2-4 weeks) in the 3-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday, had just two goals to his name in the first six games of the losing streak. Both goals came in the first game at UBS Arena, a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flame a week ago.

Josh Bailey collected zero points in the first three games of the skid before he entered COVID-19 protocol prior to Tuesday’s matchup with the Florida Panthers. He rejoined the group Friday at practice, but did not play in the loss on Friday.

The fourth line, which has been known to shut down the opposition’s best players, has made questionable decisions on a nightly basis. They have looked like a shell of their old self. On Friday, a costly step-up by Matt Martin led to a 2-on-1 rush that saw the Penguins get their first goal, which turned out to be the game-winner.

The Islanders have scored just seven goals over their last eight games. The defense and the goaltending have been good enough to win games, but the complete lack of scoring has stopped any chance at coming away with one point, let alone two.

“We have done it by committee and this is the first time for some guys that we haven’t done it by committee in the last three years,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “They’re going to get the tougher checking assignments, get the best defenseman, they’re probably a little easier matchups. You find out how good of a player you are.”

“When you’ve got to put the team on your back or you’ve got to raise your game to that level where you can produce and play on both sides of the puck, it’s a taller task. There’s a lot of pressure on those individuals.”

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