2. Special teams made the difference tonight
The New York Islanders power-play has not been good since 2017-18. It started this season looking similarly anemic, which to a team that is no offensive juggernaut at 5v5, is a real problem.
The Edmonton Oilers have not been good at 5v5 in 2020-21, even with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the ice. But, their power-play is lights out good, which often makes the difference for them in their wins.
For the Islanders, a good power-play could be the difference between being a middling or below-average offensive team, and one that can hold their own against the league’s best. That’s what they got from their special teams on Saturday. Both the power-play and the penalty kill performed exquisitely well and were ultimately the difference in a 4-2 win.
Mat Barzal’s game-winning power-play marker early in the third period lifted the Islanders man-advantage unit to three-for-four since we turned the calendar to February. The goal may have come on a bit of a broken play, but sometimes teams need those breaks.
Later, Leo Komarov fed a perfect pass to a streaking J.G. Pageau, who finished off the Islanders first shorthanded goal of the season. The Isles penalty kill was effective throughout the night, killing off both 4v5’s.
It was a refreshing performance for Komarov, whose inclusion in the Islanders lineup has earned Barry Trotz regular criticism. Tonight, Komarov was effective in the role we so often hear that he excels at, which is penalty killing. That’s always a welcome change, especially when that strong performance extends outside of just the penalty kill, which it did.
The Islanders power-play is now tied for the eleventh-best man-advantage unit in the NHL with the Arizona Coyotes at a 25% success rate. The penalty kill is 20th-ranked, at 75%.