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Despite a successful homestand and recent eight-game point streak, the New York Islanders are still looking to sustain consistency in their game, coming off a disappointing loss in Montreal.
Earlier in the week, the Islanders had defeated both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Anaheim Ducks, despite blowing multi-goal leads in each game. Now, the Islanders did put together a good effort in both wins, but the trend of blown leads doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon.
Then to close out the homestand against the Boston Bruins, once again, the Islanders managed to pull ahead with a multi-goal lead. However, the Bruins were able to claw back with a couple power play goals, before a back-and-forth third period saw the Islanders blow two more brief leads, before losing in a shootout. Again, the Islanders had a great first 40 minutes against a very good team, but more blown leads, and the struggling penalty kill resulted in a four-game win streak coming to an end.
Despite the loss to the Bruins though, there was still a sense that the Islanders were carrying forward some momentum coming off their homestand, following a series of pretty good efforts.
However, in the second half of their back-to-back yesterday, New York came out completely flat. The Islanders found themselves in a massive four-goal hole against the Montreal Canadiens after a disastrous middle frame and while they did put together a significantly better third period to cut the lead to one and made things interesting, they couldn’t complete the comeback and ended up falling 5-3.
So despite the recent success, as has been the case pretty much the entire year to this point, the Islanders continue to struggle to put together a complete game. Often they can put together two good periods, or show some life late after a slow start, but rarely are we seeing it all come together for a full game.
Between the first three games of the week against Toronto, Anaheim, and Boston, the Islanders blew a multi-goal lead in each matchup, even if the efforts overall in each win were relatively strong. Then against the Canadiens, New York was completely flat for the first two periods and couldn’t battle back. Again, the loss to Montreal itself isn't the problem, it's the terrible start that led to the loss which is cause for concern.
The penalty kill also continues to be a huge issue. While it got the job done against Montreal, the Islanders killed off just one of six power play opportunities between the games against the Leafs, Ducks and Bruins this week. New York ranks as the worst PK in the NHL right now, and it’s going to be hard to win games (or protect leads), when they’re giving up a goal so frequently on the PK. If Zach Parise does end up returning, that's probably where he can help New York the most.
There are certainly still positives, because the successful homestand left the Islanders in a good position, picking up 10 of a possible 12 points over the six games. Notably, offense continues to come at a steady rate, with Brock Nelson scoring four goals and seven points over the last four games following a bit of a cold stretch, and Mathew Barzal, Bo Horvat and Noah Dobson are all exceeding expectations in terms of production. Simon Holmstrom also has four goals and seven points over the last nine games, building a bit of chemistry with Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Horvat did appear to have hurt his arm at the end of the game against Montreal, so hopefully, there’s no issue there.
But a blown lead almost seems inevitable anytime they pull ahead at this point, and it seems like there are always some lapses in most games, win or lose. I think realistically, as seen against Boston, Ilya Sorokin not playing like Ilya Sorokin is also a notable difference-maker. While he's been fine overall, New York benefits a ton from him being one of the best goalies in the league, and he hasn't necessarily played at that level this year.
The team probably deserves a bit of slack from their loss, given the defeat against Montreal came on the second half of back-to-back, and they’re still icing a bit of a makeshift defense group, with three of their top five defensemen unavailable. That said, the negative trends we see with the team aren’t necessarily a direct result of that, and the team was blowing leads and having trouble on the PK even back when they had a healthy lineup.
Still, the Islanders remain in a good spot in the Metropolitan Division. We know they can be a very good team at their best and the results have been coming at a much more consistent rate.
They’ll be off until Tuesday, when they host the Edmonton Oilers for the start of another back-to-back set.
OTHER ARTICLES FROM DECEMBER
- Islanders sneak past Hurricanes, but win doesn’t inspire much confidence
- Concerns with Islanders continue to mount despite better results
- Islanders earn big win over Blue Jackets, Bortuzzo acquired from Blues
- Isles carrying some momentum following OT wins over Kings and Leafss