Islanders power play is bad but penalty kill is killing them

Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The only reason the Washington Capitals have life in this series is because of the New York Islanders terrible penalty kill.

The New York Islanders power play is awful. With a single power-play goal in 19 attempts, they hold a 5.3 percent efficiency on the man advantage. In these playoffs, only the Tampa Bay Lightning have a worse power-play efficiency than the Isles going 0-for-10 in five games.

If the Islanders had a half-decent power play the Capitals would be buried in goals this series. At the very least the Capitals would think twice about going to the penalty box. Right now, with a 5.3 percent power play, there’s no price to pay if the Caps take a run at an Isles player.

The Isles


to fix their power play. But with that being said, the penalty kill is where the Islanders need to poor their efforts. Not only because it is actually possible for the Isles to fix the PK, but with an OK PK, the Capitals would have no life in this series.

It’s the Personnel

For the last two seasons now the Islanders power play has been at the bottom of the league. In 2018-19 they converted 14.5 percent of the time (third-worst efficiency in the league). This season, the Islanders were a bit better with a 17.3 percent efficiency (eighth-worst in the league).

For 2019-20, the Islanders let special teams coach Scott Gomez go (the only remaining member of former head coach Doug Weight’s staff) and replaced him with Toronto Maple Leafs special teams coach Jim Hiller.

The issue for the Islanders power play isn’t so much the strategy as much as the personnel. They just don’t seem to have the right players to execute a good power play.

Conversely, the penalty kill has been mid-table over the last two seasons. In 18-19, the Isles PK was efficient 79.9 percent of the time, ranked 17th overall. This season it was efficient 80.7 percent of the time, ranked 15th overall in the league.

The Islanders can run a decent penalty kill. But they haven’t been able to do so in the playoffs.

Against the Washington Capitals, the Islanders have been efficient 75 percent of the time. The Caps have converted on four of their 16 opportunities. The Caps have eight goals in the series meaning 50 percent of their offense has come on PP. Without the power play, the Capitals aren’t in this series.

Obviously, the Islanders can’t stop them all. But the two last PP goals scored by the Caps – Kuznetsov’s goal in Game 3 and Ovechkin’s goal in Game 4 – were avoidable.

On Kuznetsov’s goal, the Caps forward was able to take four ‘steps’ and coast before uncorking a top-shelf wrist shot past Varlamov. That’s way too much space. The Islanders have to close the gap and challenge the shooter.

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The PK can be fixed. The Islanders have the personnel on the roster to fix this penalty kill. With a half-decent penalty kill, the Islanders can take the Capitals life-line out of this series.

Yes, the power play needs to be fixed, but we have a 150 game sample that tells us they just can’t have a successful power play. We’ve seen the Islanders go 1-for-21 on the power play as recently as February 19.

The Isles struggles on the power play aren’t anything new. Their struggles on the PK is something new. Again, fixing it will close the lifeline they’re giving the Caps (and the one they gave to the Panthers).