This season, the New York Islanders backend has been heavily active on the rush and in the offensive zone. The New York Islanders have recorded 71 total shots through three games, with the defense shooting at will, having accounted for 51 of them (43.5 percent).
Defenseman Noah Dobson, 22, leads the New York Islanders with 13 shots through three games (4.33 per game). Last season, Dobson led the Islanders with 190 shots in 80 games (2.375 per game), so there is clearly more of an emphasis on point shots this season.
That more aggressive system under first-year head coach Lane Lambert has paid dividends for the offense, with 4.33 goals per game through the first three contests with a nightly average of 39 shots.
While defensemen have scored a combined seven of the Islanders’ first 13 goals, nine of the 13 have come from defenseman making plays toward goal.
With how big goaltenders are in the NHL nowadays, having a strong net-front presence is a must for any NHL club. The New York Islanders have a handful of players who make a living in front of the net, and although the size of a forward surely helps with screening the opposing netminder, it’s not the be-all and end-all.
“There is a will factor for sure. And then there’s different ways to do it too,” Lambert said following Thursday’s morning skate. “There’s some techniques and things like that to get there. There’s a lot of big defensemen in the league too. So, you have to be able to be a little bit crafty in that area, but certainly will plays a part in it.”
Eighteen-year NHL veteran Zach Parise, who stands at 5’11, and weighs 195 lbs, has made a career out of going to the dirty area.
That’s how he scored his first goal of the season on Tuesday night as he crashed the net and got his skate on a Noah Dobson shot, which deflected the puck past San Jose Sharks netminder James Reimer.
— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) October 19, 2022
“It’s both will and smarts,” Lambert said on the undersized Zach Parise getting to the net. “He has different techniques that he uses to get there. But it all starts with understanding that that’s where you need to go, and that’s his job, and he’s doing a really good job of it.”
Zach Parise told NYI Hockey Now that there is more of an emphasis on getting to the front of the net, given the volume of shots coming from the point.
“There always should be an emphasis, but yes, when you’re getting more volume, I think that there’s always that hunger to get to the net,” Parise said. “But I think that it just creates more breakdowns when the point shots are getting through. When the defense is shooting more or less just, you know, coverage gets lost. People turn their backs a little more, and rebounds are there, or you can get lost.”
“I think, as a whole, it’s just better for the offense [when the defense gets pucks towards goal].
— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) October 19, 2022
“Body position is really important. It’s not easy to get to the net in this league, and you’re going to have a guy on you no matter what. So if we can get a shot [from the point], even if we don’t touch it, there’s bodies there that can get in the way and block the goalie.”
Lee also explained how, no matter how hard the shot is coming or where it’s going, you do what you can to get a piece, as we saw on his goal.
“I’m trying to get a piece of that, but great shot by Pelech. [He] put it right in the spot where it’s a good spot to tip [it] so lucky to get a piece of it, but you got to always try to touch it.”
From the defenseman’s point of view, Robin Salo spoke with NYI Hockey Now about what he is looking for on the rush and from the point when he has the puck on his stick.
“If there’s guys at the net, you are always going to get shots through because we have such good guys here for screening the goalie and tipping the puck, so I feel like it’s always dangerous if you get the shots through,” Salo said. “I know the guys are going to be going to the net, so so you just gotta trust that and…it definitely helps us to, to get the puck in the net.”
Robin Salo has two goals on the season, his second of the two (second of the night) Saturday against the Ducks came with Kyle Palmieri setting the screen. The goal was reviewed for goaltender interference but was deemed a good goal.
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) October 16, 2022
On the season, per our friends over at Natural Stat Trick, the New York Islanders have generated 23 rebounds this season. Per NHL.com, the Islanders have totaled seven tips and two deflections on goal.
With the way the defense is shooting the puck and with the handful of players that crash the net, the New York Islanders are likley to continue generating goals this way. When you don’t have the scoring prowess, elite shooting that some other teams in the NHL have, you must do what you can to muster as many offensive opportunities as possible.
That’s why there is an emphasis on the New York Islanders defenseman shooting, as it will, in theory, create more chances and more goals.
So far, through three games, that game plan has paid off.