2. The Islanders lineup was ineffective again
The Islanders shouldn’t have been in a position to lose this game in the final moments of regulation. It just shouldn’t have happened.
This was a Washington Capitals team that entered Tuesday without Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Ilya Samsonov, or Tom Wilson. That’s a lot of talent to be missing out on, especially when players like Nicklas Backstrom and Lars Eller go down and head for the locker room mid-game.
The Islanders simply shouldn’t have found themselves in a position to lose this game late. Regardless, that’s how it went as the final seconds ticked off on Tuesday.
Barry Trotz’s lineup decisions have been puzzling of late, and this game was no exception.
With Anthony Beauvillier placed on injured reserve, and the Islanders already struggling to find offense entering Tuesday, one would think Trotz’s first inclination would be to take Ross Johnston out of the lineup. Or to never insert Leo Komarov into it, at least.
But Johnston stayed, and Komarov entered. Kieffer Bellows played 9:54 of ice-time at 5v5 and 11:04 total. Oliver Wahlstrom, and a first-round draft pick with offensive upside, continued to sit and collect dust while the team collectively failed to score more than two goals.
That failure to score comes on the back of a game in which Trotz’s Islanders were shutout by Devils goalie Scott Wedgewood. Wedgewood had only days earlier played his first NHL game in nearly three years.
We all knew the Islanders weren’t an offensive dynamo coming into this season. After another lackluster offseason and dead silent free-agent period, it wouldn’t take an expert to know this team’s problems from 2019-20 would carry over to 2020-21.
But it’s more than the offense failing to score. The fourth line turned in another poor performance overall. They failed to generate any energy for a team that badly needed it on Sunday, and again today they really came up short in that regard.
That’s a fourth-line worth $8.350 million, with three players who will be over 30 at the season’s end, that is generally tasked with being this team’s engine.
J.G. Pageau, who the Islanders spent resources to acquire in a trade and are paying $5 million a season to, is having his 5v5 performance squelched by poor linemates on a nightly basis.
Pageau proved he could do more than be a typical 3C last year with Ottawa and with the Islanders over the summer in the playoff bubble. So say what you want about Ross Johnston’s intangibles, he still doesn’t belong in the lineup every night, and if he is going to be there it should be in a fourth-line capacity only.