2. The power-play scored in the clutch
With all due respect to Islanders assistant coach Jim Hiller, this team’s power-play is the last unit I want on the ice with a chance to win a game on any given night.
With that said though, the Islanders took their only 5v4 opportunity of the night and cashed in on it, with Anders Lee burying a loose puck in the crease to seal the 4-3 victory.
It wasn’t just Lee’s put-back from the crease that I want to focus on, though. The Islanders power-play more generally looked really good on their only opportunity in Saturday’s final frame.
Puck movement, puck retrieval, decision making, and finally, rebound retrieval, it was all clicking for the Islanders first power-play unit, the only one to see the ice on their man advantage opportunity.
That’s a far cry from most nights when this unit looks disjointed, sloppy, and robotic. If this had been an average Islanders power-play, 70% of it would’ve been one of Mat Barzal, Noah Dobson, or Nick Leddy trying and failing to enter the offensive zone and find a passing target. The other 30% would be spent trying to feed Ryan Pulock a pass in Ovechkin’s office for a shot that would eventually miss the net or get blocked.
Not last night though. Last night, the Islanders spent their 1:01 of time at 5v4 moving the puck in the Pittsburgh zone with relative ease.
Now, it should be noted that the Penguins penalty-kill is tied for fifth-worst in the NHL with a 72.2% successful kill rate, so this isn’t one of the elite penalty-killing teams the Islanders scored on. We’ve seen this Islanders power-play move the puck nicely against poor penalty-killing teams before, see the Rangers game on opening night.
So, this shouldn’t be a cause to celebrate and declare the power-play a non-concern moving forward. The Islanders still need to work on this unit and get it contributing more consistently. For a team that’s as offensively strapped as the Isles are, they can’t afford to give away scoring opportunities the way this unit does.
But, last night the power-play delivered, and the Islanders won because of it, and sometimes when you’re looking to snap out of a funk it’s an unlikely contribution that gets the job done. So that was really cool.