The New York Islanders should easily be able to find more goals from their existing top-six forwards.
The New York Islanders need goals. It’s no secret. Their 412 goals over the last two seasons have them ranked 25th in scoring. They’re sandwiched between the Buffalo Sabres (414 goals-for) and the New Jersey Devils (404 goals-for). Only the Dallas Stars have fewer goals-for than the Isles but have been to the playoffs twice over the last two years.
But with the flat cap and an already bloated wage bill, the Islanders aren’t likely going to add anyone to the top six who will be a guaranteed goal-scorer. They might add a rookie like Oliver Wahlstrom or Kieffer Bellows, but it would be unfair to ask either to turn around the Islanders offense in year one of their NHL careers.
If the Islanders offense is going to generate more, they’re going to have to get it from some of the guys they already got.
It’s In The Percentages
We know going into the season that the top-six should resemble what it was at the end of the playoffs. Captain Anders Lee will certainly continue to play with Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle on line one while Brock Nelson will center Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey on line two.
There could, and likely will be some shifting and moving as the season goes on, but for puck drop on the 2020-21 season that’s what the Islanders top-six is going to look like.
The question this season is going to be: “can they get more from this same group?” And while there’s no definitive answer to this question yet, of course, just looking at shooting percentages suggest the Islanders will likely find more success offensively this season.
*Paced out over a full 82 game season
**Shooting percentages are for all situations
Three guys shot below their career average shooting percentage this season. All three were on the top line; Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, and Jordan Eberle.
For Barzal, you can associate that 0.4% drop with growing pains. He started out the year very well. By the 20 game mark, Barzal was on pace for 37 goals and was shooting at a 20.5% efficiency. But as the rest of the season progressed, and the Islanders started slipping in the standings, Barzal was converting shots to goals at a terrible 7.9% efficiency.
Barzal showed he can be a 30 goal scorer in the NHL but when the going got tough for the team his efficiency decrease. There are more goals in his game.
Anders Lee put up 18 goals on the year at 5on5, but only managed to score two on the power play. The Isles captain had more power-play goals in the Flyers series with three than he did during the 68 game regular season. Lee hasn’t scored fewer than five power-play goals in a season since 2013-14 when he played 22 games.
Lee can still be that 30 goal scorer we know he is. Lee typically shoots at 18.8% on the power play. If he just averages his 16.67 shooting percentage on the man advantage from last season he’ll be able to get up to that 30 goal mark, easily.
Which is good news on two fronts for the Islanders who not only score few goals in all situations, but they were one of the bottom tier teams on the power play for the second straight season.
Want your voice heard? Join the Eyes On Isles team!
Lost in the Islanders offense is how productive Jordan Eberle was. His 40 points over 58 games had him on pace to score 56 points over a 72 game season (he missed ten games due to injury). He had a good year. But he could be better.
His 11.7 shooting percentage at 5on5 was up from 2018-19, but his 2018-19 was so poor things were only going to get better this year. We know that Eberle can routinely convert shots to goals at a 13% rate at 5on5. At the rate he was shooting the puck this year he could have easily hit 25 goals on the year.