New York Islanders Struggles Highlighted By Hurricanes Win vs Washington
By Ryan Grosso
The Carolina Hurricanes beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 during a busy Saturday night in the NHL. Only a night prior, the New York Islanders offense mostly floundered against that same Capitals team.
Yes, the Washington Capitals were on the second night of a back-to-back against the Carolina Hurricanes. Yes, they had played almost 125 minutes of hockey on consecutive nights when the Hurricanes scored late in OT. But Carolina defeating the Capitals perfectly highlights the struggles the New York Islanders will likely face for the majority of this season.
The Hurricanes simply have the scoring punch that the Islanders don’t. Just like the Islanders on Friday, the Hurricanes kept the Caps scoring in check for most of the night. But unlike the Islanders, Carolina didn’t flounder offensively when trailing. Despite surrendering the lead late in the first period, the Hurricanes scored twice late and won in overtime.
Now, again, Washington was on the back-end of games on consecutive nights. That cannot be overstated when considering the outcome of Saturday’s match in Washington. Especially with the added caveat of the extra frame that was required to finish the contest.
We all knew the New York Islanders haven’t fixed their offensive woes this offseason. Try as he might, Lou Lamoriello failed to sign a winger for the Islanders top-six. That’s not an indictment of the GM, either. For years the Islanders have struggled to sign marquis free agents. Long before Lou.
With their offseason of missing out on free agents, the New York Islanders turned to Michael Dal Colle to fill the role of the second line left wing. Dal Colle played 14:07 in the home opener, registering one shot on goal and one shot blocked on the night. He was on the ice for 62.5% of his faceoffs in the offensive zone, according to Hockey Reference.
I have been a little confused by the inclusion of Dal Colle on that second line. Not that I dislike him, he had a strong camp and preseason, and I thought he looked good in his brief stint with the team late last season. But with that said, I’m not sure I ever see Dal Colle carving out a mainstay top-six role in the NHL.
I thought a lot about the potential of Anthony Beauvillier moving to the second line this year. If for nothing else, to see a better skater alongside Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey.
Beau played 15:39 on Friday, registering an assist on Devon Toews’ insane pinball machine goal. The youngest player on the Islanders roster, Beauvillier also notched three shots on goal while playing the fourth-most minutes for an Islander forward, all numbers credited again to HR.
All this is to say the New York Islanders do not have a legit top-six winger to fill that void. They were given no option but to resort to growth from within the organization. The bad news is there may not be any help coming on the front end this season.
In 2017-18, the New Jersey Devils had surprised the league, finishing with 97 points to secure the final Eastern Conference Wild Card slot. It was a major advancement in what was thought to be a still fledgling rebuild.
For 2018-19 they relied on growth of pieces already tied to the organization. That season saw them drop 25 points from their previous year. Their reward? The first pick in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft.
Let me be clear, I’m not saying the New York Islanders are going to be a front-runner for QMJHL superstar Alexis Lafreniere this coming summer. Far from it, I think this team can compete all season due to the strength of their coaching and the defense-first mindset instilled in the players by it.
Perhaps the best scenario for the Islanders would be to play the long game for another year. After all, the coming offseason brings three key RFA’s to the negotiating table in Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Devon Toews. Ilya Sorokin, the KHL goalie prospect with video game numbers, could also factor into the mix next year on an entry-level contract. That doesn’t even bring into account the real lack of cap space the Isles have to play with. They’re $5.534M away from the salary cap as I write this.
That cap space could be enough wiggle room to squeeze an expiring contract into the mix somewhere down the line in 2019-20 to bolster the front end.
But Lou Lamoriello’s conservative management tendencies in regards to trades during the season make me think this could be unlikely. Compile that with the cruciality of the coming offseason, and it could make for slow news on the trade front.
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I know I haven’t said anything groundbreaking here. But I think I’ve also been truthful and realistic with my expectations, if not a bit too cynical. But the good news is I feel the team is in good hands. I, like a lot of you, trust Lou in the front office to supply Barry Trotz behind the bench with the right players for his system. It’s a long season, Isles fans. Buckle Up.