There’s a real possibility the New York Islanders dress seven defensemen against the Florida Panthers.
After the New York Islanders 2-1 exhibition win over the New York Rangers Barry Trotz indicated that he could play eleven forwards and seven defensemen in the qualifying round against the Florida Panthers.
An 11/7 setup is not unheard-of in the NHL, but it’s certainly not normal. Sacrificing a forward spot for an extra defender isn’t something coaches like doing regularly. It puts a gap in the forward lines and could throw off the general structure of what are typically untouched defensive pairings.
But if there’s anything we know about this postseason is that it’s anything but normal.
In Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Rangers, the Islanders iced 12 forwards and eight defensemen. The NHL allowed teams to go above the usual 20-man game-day roster for these one-time tune-up games before the qualifying round.
On the blueline Trotz had (in their respective pairing on the depth chart):
While we can debate who was the most effective and who belongs as the team’s third pair, one thing was clear, Trotz spread out the ice time equally.
Of the team’s eight defensemen none had fewer than 12 minutes or more than 15 minutes of ice time. Mayfield led the way with 15:51 while Noah Dobson had the fewest with 12:24.
Being able to keep their defensemen fresh throughout the game is a huge advantage for a team that relies on them so heavily like the New York Islanders. Specifically when it comes to Adam Pelech who is just back from an Achilles injury that saw him miss half the season.
Who Trotz takes as the seventh defenseman is still debatable. Veteran Andy Greene seems like a clear option. The 37-year-old played 13:23 and had the third-most PK time on the blue line.
Having him alternate time with Nick Leddy or Johnny Boychuk (who weren’t particularly effective against the Rangers) could work and right up Trotz’s alley.
But dressing seven defensemen would mean that a forward would have to sit. With 9:26 of strictly 5on5 ice-time, Ross Johnston is clearly the odd-man-out in this situation.
That means those nine minutes have to be spread out through the rest of the team. That shouldn’t be too difficult to do.
Three Full Lines
But doing so would mean that the Islanders wouldn’t be able to roll out four even lines during a game. That fact is the single justifiable argument as to why Barry Trotz may not roll with an 11/7 setup against the Panthers.
Rolling four lines with near even deployment is a hallmark of the Islanders style under Barry Trotz. With just eleven forwards, the Islanders are one body short of four full lines.
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In a strict cost/benefit look at the decision to go 11/7, it would stand to reason that the defense-first Islanders would have more to gain from icing seven defensemen than having Ross Johnston out there for less than half a period.