New York Islanders Defensive Issue Isn’t Strategy but Personnel

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13: Jaroslav Halak
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13: Jaroslav Halak

The New York Islanders are doing a good job at limiting the number of shots they allow. The next step has to be limiting the number of high danger scoring chances they allow.

The Athletics Arthur Staple did some great work to tell everyone that the New York Islanders are in fact concerned with the number of shots they allow against. According to Staple, after a loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 13th, where the Isles let up 26 shots against in the first period, Doug Weight instilled a new defensive system.

And it’s worked. Since February 13th, the Islanders have only allowed 40 or more shots against three times. So congrats on that Doug. Step one has been achieved. Just one thing, though. Where are the wins?

Since that new defensive structure, the Islanders have gone 2-4-3. Including a seven-game losing streak that the Islanders are still currently on. So the shots have gone down. Why hasn’t the new tactic resulted in wins?

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High-Danger Chances

If there’s one thing that’s gotten worse since Doug Weight’s recent defensive structural shift is how many high-danger shot attempts the Isles give up per game. In the nine games since February 13th, the Islanders have averaged 15.85% HDSH% compared to 7.09% for the nine games before, or 13.98% for the entire season before the shift.

(Stats taken from Natural Stat Trick)

Just look at these two goals against from March 2nd versus Montreal. Remember that by then the Islanders new defensive strategy was well in place. That night the New York Islanders allowed 25 shots against. The fewest since December 19th, 2017 when they allowed 22 shots against.

I’ll grant Brendan Gallagher a little credit, he still had some work to do in order to get the puck on net. But he easily gave Thomas Hickey the slip to create the space necessary to get the opportunity off right in front of Jaro. After giving Hickey the slip he was wide open to redirect his shot on net.

In the next example, you’ll see how Islanders defensemen (and forwards) leave their right side completely open. Both Brock Nelson and Ryan Pulock follow Galchenyuk as he enters the zone while Thomas Hickey follows Andrew Shaw.

Everyone’s got a man, except that with double coverage on Galchenyuk it leaves David Schlemko wide open to get a great wrist shot off on Halak.

As soon as Ryan Pulock realizes Schlemko is open he goes to challenge the shooter. Too late, but good try. But for some reason both Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier are puck watching, leaving Galchenyuk to bury the rebound.


This is the moment the puck hits the bar and is about to bounces back out into the slot. Hickey’s already down and out. Pulock is challenging Schlemko. Anthony Beauvillier is turning away from the play and Brock Nelson is just watching everything unfold in front of him.

Both opportunities were absolutely preventable and exactly why the New York Islanders can’t turn their new strategy into wins. Because as a unit they aren’t able to defend. It’s individuals that just can’t seem to stay focused long enough to compelte the task. And by that I mean defend.

Next: Tavares Isn't Having Any Fun

I was convinced for a time that the issue with the New York Islanders defense was systematic. That with the proper strategy, the Islanders could fix their problems. But looking at how they give up high-danger opportunities its clear the issue is personnel.