Fans of this team are all too familiar with the following scenario unfolding:
The Islanders play a solid 40 minutes and may even be leading heading into the third period. When the final horn sounds, the scoreboard shows an Islanders loss. This is followed shortly by the destruction of a certain fan’s younger sister’s playroom.
All jokes aside, the Islanders have not been great in the third period. What happened to the effort that we saw just an hour or so earlier? Last night’s 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings was another example of playing only 40 minutes of a 60 minute game. The Islanders held the Kings scoreless heading into the second intermission. They then allowed the Kings to dominate play in the third and walk away from the Coliseum with two points.
The Islanders have allowed 62 goals this season, they currently rank 15th in the League with 2.70 goals allowed per game. However, 23 of those goals (37.10%) have come in the third period alone. Although it may seem higher than the number suggests, the Islanders have dropped three games while heading into the third period with a lead (CBJ, NYR, LAK). Yes, it’s the same tale we’ve seen year after year. On the flip side, the team has also held onto four leads while leading after 40 minutes of play. So there’s that.
While goaltenders Evgeni Nabokov and Kevin Poulin are averaging a .904 save percentage this season, that number drops to just .874% in the third period. They have allowed 23 goals on 183 shots. Of course, the numbers only paint part of the picture. As fans and analysts alike have noticed, the game that got the Islanders the lead does a complete 180. The defense collapses and suddenly the Isles are on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
As Eyes on Isles and multiple other Islanders related sites have pointed out time and time again: there will be another game tomorrow, next week, and the weeks after that. The sky, although some would like to debate this, is not in fact falling. Losses like last night’s to the Kings are never easy to swallow. The team’s third period woes are more than likely a topic of discussion, and more importantly, an area the team is working to fix. As Kevin Poulin was “controversially” quoted, saying: “A hockey game is 60 minutes, not 40 minutes, not 20 minutes…we just had to play the third, and I think they won the battle. Maybe too many mistakes as well.”
Moving forward, the Islanders know they need to play 60 minutes, and dropping games they should have won is the difference between a mediocre team and a solid, playoff bound team (i.e. the LA Kings). Let us not forget, the majority of this team is still very young. Mistakes will happen. However, giving up two goal leads in the final 20 minutes of play leaves the fanbase deflated, and the guys inside the locker room even more so.