Why have the New York Islanders been so much better on the road now than during the rest of the year? One thing they’re doing well is giving up fewer quality shooting opportunities.
Going into tonight’s game against the St. Louis Blues the New York Islanders are 5-2-1 on this franchise long nine-game road trip. A significant difference from the 7-13-4 road record they had before.
That’s a 29% win percentage versus 63% over this stretch. So what gives? What has changed for the Islanders to improve so drastically on the road?
Looking at the stats the big difference in the Isles play is how they’ve limited quality shooting opportunities.
New York Islanders
What the Numbers Say
I looked at the two periods in question; road games before the nine-game road trip, so between October 13th, 2016 and February 20th, 2017. Then the period from February 21st, 2017 until March 11th, 2017, what I’ll just refer to as “the road trip”.
Looking at all the numbers between the two periods, expected goals differential changed significantly from -12.91 before and -1.11 after the road trip started. I took these numbers from Corsica.Hockey under the team’s custom query section.
They way that Corsica measures expected goals is based on a number of variables (read up on it here), but primarily it’s the quality of shots faced.
it’s not blocked shots, because the Isles Corsi has gone down by an insignificant amount, from 46.11 to 45.99. If they were blocking these shots their Corsi would have changed not by a similar rate, but by enough to suggest so. A drop of .12% by no way suggest that.
It’s something more systematic at work. Which reminds me of what Newsday’s Arthur Staple said recently on Dimitri Filipovic’s PDOcast. That Doug Weight has been telling his centers to come in deeper on the defensive end.
We’re all familiar with that high scoring zone in front of the net. That zone that looks like a baseball base. Having centers fall deeper into the zone not only covers any potential shooting lanes in the slot, but also offers a nice outlet for defenders looking to clear the zone and start the rush the other way.
It’s a simple tweak that’s seemingly made quite a difference not only in the Islanders success on the road, but in the Islanders chances at making the playoffs. I started by not being a fan of Doug Weight’s hiring, but I’m starting to like it more and more.