At the start of the season, New York Islanders head coach Doug Weight installed a new defensive strategy. More than half-way through the season and it’s clear this new strategy isn’t working.
Only a tie-breaker is keeping the New York Islanders out of a playoff spot at the moment. Both the Flyers and the Islanders sit with 57 points in the standings. With the Flyers holding a marginal advantage across two of the three tie-breakers, and a significant advantage in the third; goal-differentials.
Just for your information, the first tie-breaker is points percentage. Where the Flyers have 0.02 points per game more than the Islanders. The second is regulation and overtime wins (ROW) where the Flyers sit with 24 to the Isles 23.
But in goal differential, the Flyers hold a ten point lead over the New York Islanders -15. The Islanders haven’t had problems scoring this season. They still sit at the top of the NHL in terms of goals for. It’s defensively where the Islanders are poor. And that’s exactly where the Islanders have seen a strategic shift this season.
The New Plan
In the preseason Doug Weight pushed for a new defensive strategy on his players. The hope was that they could reduce the oppositions puck possession and reduce errant deflections and screened shots.
"Weight and his staff have been coaching the Islanders’ defensemen to clear sight lines for the goaltenders rather than try to be a second netminder. Weight also wants his forwards to be aggressive at the points rather than keeping a tighter defensive structure. It’s all in the name of reducing errant deflections and screened shots, while also trying to reduce puck possession for opposing teams in the defensive zone."
When you consider how the Islanders have been losing it’s been seemingly thanks to this strategy.
Currently, the Islanders rank dead last in the average number of shots against in the NHL. They allow 35.4 shots against a night. And that isn’t getting any better.
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Over the last three weeks worth of games, the Islanders have allowed an average of 42.4 shots against. Including two games that hit the 50 shot mark (and one that was but a single shot away). Other teams are having no issues getting shots on net. And that’s creating chances. Chances that teams are burying.
And this clearly isn’t playing out well for the Islanders goalies. Arguably the more shots they see and see well the better they can manage those shots. Arguably. But that isn’t happening.
Let’s be honest, Halak and Greiss aren’t letting in more bad goals than before. It’s still happening at the same rate. What changed is the rate at which those pucks are arriving at the net. And the defense isn’t able to clear traffic to reduce the high-danger opportunities. Resulting in more goals.
What we’re seeing out of Jaro and Greiss is exactly what we should expect from the two in such a system. We knew that neither of these two goalies were world betters. Neither of them can stand on their head night in and night out to steal games for the Isles. Reducing the number of chances masked that.
The defensive system needs to change. The Islanders are at the point of the year where they need to adjust. Doug Weight has to scrap what he put in place at the start of the year or at the very least tweak it in order to limit the number of shots being directed to his team’s net.