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Islanders Need More From Dobson Defensively During Playoff Push

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New York Islanders, Noah Dobson

New York Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson has had a strong season offensively, with 12 goals and 24 assists in 58 games, while averaging 20:56 minutes per game.

In the Islanders 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night, Noah Dobson snapped a six-game goal drought as he got his team on the board on the power play.

That was Dobson’s first goal in seven games, with just two over his last 27 games. For comparison purposes, the 23-year-old had 10 over the first 31 games, as his offensive output could be better.

As much as the Islanders need goals, defense becomes extremely important at this point of the season, with no room for error.

Earlier in the game, Dobson’s defense partner Sebastian Aho, who has struggled mightily as of late, stepped in the neutral zone and missed the puck.

That left Dobson as the lone man back with one job–not to allow the pass to get through on the Kings two-on-one.

Dobson did the right thing to start, staying much more on Arthur Kaliyev and allowing netminder Ilya Sorokin to focus on puck carrier Rasmus Kupari.

But somehow, Kupari got the pass through Dobson, and the Kings took a 2-0 lead at 8:05 of the second.

Again, that’s not Dobson’s fault for being put in that position, but he had the ability to make a play and just didn’t, and the Islanders paid for it, trailing 2-0.

Aho and Dobson were on the ice for the Kings’ third goal, making it 3-0 as Dobson failed to win a puck battle down low:

Islanders captain Anders Lee also deserves blame, as he had a chance to win the battle but failed to do so.

On a night where the Islanders had the opportunity to beat a Kings team who was on the second of a back-to-back, the Aho-Dobson pairing did not do enough.

That pairing was the only pairing Lambert hadn’t toyed with recently heading into the game.

In the 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets, Lambert broke up his best defense pairing in Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock to balance his backend.

“We felt that there was a necessity to mix things around and see where it went from there, and so far, it’s been okay,” Lambert said on Friday morning.

But against the Kings, the defense was suspect in the second period, as you saw on two of the three goals, with Alexander Romanov accidentally deflecting one past his own netminder.

The second period was a microcosm for their struggles this season as opponents were left wide open, and structure was MIA.

One of the glaring issues in Dobson’s game since he broke into the NHL has been his play in his own zone.

After learning from Johnny Boychuk, Andy Greene, and Zdeno Chara last year, the Islanders hoped he would take strides in year four after a breakout junior campaign.

“You know, he has to continue to grow the way he did this year,” Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said this summer after inking his defenseman to a three-year extension.

“So we certainly would love to sign any player as long as we can, for the right cap hit, the right price, and I think we have to see a little more from Noah to make that long-term decision.”

The six-foot-four, 195-pound defenseman has struggled to win puck battles and box players out in front of the goal, with Lambert calling him out at a practice a few weeks ago.

Lambert’s Fiery Practice: ‘We Can Take A Beating When It’s Needed’

 

The Islanders hold the top wild-card spot, but with the Buffalo Sabres winning in regulation, they trail New York by three points with five fewer games played.

Islanders Bo Horvat said it best in his conversation with NYI Hockey Now on Friday morning that everyone on the team needs to step up with Mathew Barzal out of the lineup.

“Everybody’s gotta step up in different ways,” Horvat said. “For myself, I think, obviously, I gotta bring my game to another level, trying to fill that void, and we’re gonna need everybody to step up if we’re going to be making that final push.”

Without Barzal, the Islanders are 2-1-0 but haven’t been as “showy” offensively, scoring gritty goals, goals from bad angles, and locking down leads in the third.

The Islanders have played well in third periods as of late, outscoring opponents 8-0 over the last five games with a 3-2-0 record. However, it’s about the defense earlier in games.

Although the Islanders need their top offensive forwards, including newcomer Horvat, to raise their game offensively, the defense from Noah Dobson and the rest of the team needs to be stronger, given the absence of the strongest playmaker on the roster.

There’s no question Dobson has the tools to be stronger defensively and, at 23, has the time to develop. But right now, the Islanders need their top players playing at their highest level if they are going to qualify for the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Their push to the playoffs continues on Sunday afternoon in Winnipeg against the Jets.