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Islanders: Three Takeaways from Ugly 6-3 Loss in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - FEBRUARY 20: Oliver Wahlstrom #26 of the New York Islanders and Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins compete for the puck in the first period during their game at PPG PAINTS Arena on February 20, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - FEBRUARY 20: Oliver Wahlstrom #26 of the New York Islanders and Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins compete for the puck in the first period during their game at PPG PAINTS Arena on February 20, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
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New York Islanders
Michael Dal Colle #28 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

2. Michael Dal Colle’s Injury Presents a New Challenge to the Islanders Lineup

Michael Dal Colle is not a flashy player whose skill commands a large role on this Islanders team. No, Dal Colle’s game is one of sandpaper and determination. If you like players who bump and grind, go into the dirty areas with tenacity, and win puck battles, you probably should like Dal Colle.

And yeah, for as good a puck retriever as he is, and he is a good one, he lacks the skill to make plays happen when he succeeds in those retrievals. It’s a big downfall of his game, unfortunately. But, he’s shown he works well with several Islanders forwards this season, including Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey, staples of the Islanders second line.

Dal Colle was placed on IR before Saturday’s game against the Penguins, and in his absence, Kieffer Bellows was slotted onto that line with Brock and Bailey. Man, that line was horrendous. Easily the Islanders worst line of the four they rolled.

In total shot attempts, the Bellows – Nelson – Bailey line were beat 6-4 on the night. Not bad, very low-event, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Take blocked shots out of the equation and the Penguins advantage here grows slightly, to 5-2. Still, not really bad, underwhelming, and dull? Sure, but not terrible. Other Islander lines did better here, but that isn’t the end of the world.

It’s the shot locations that were the problem. Dig into the Penguins xG numbers from Saturday’s game, and you see that 0.66 Penguins 5v5 expected goals came against the Nelson line exclusively. For some context, the second-worst Islanders line in the xGA department was J.G. Pageau’s, with .19 5v5 xGA.

Making matters worse, the Nelson line’s xGF was only .05, which is again the worst on the team by a fair margin. In total, the Nelson line took home 7% of the expected goal share. Adjusting those numbers to account for score and venue doesn’t offer a prettier view, as in that case the line only took home a slightly less atrocious 9% of the xG share at 5v5.

Keep in mind, the Nelson line put up those numbers as a group that was exclusively deployed in the offensive and neutral zones on Saturday night. They didn’t take one defensive zone faceoff all night, and still only managed 9% of the expected goals share.

Obviously, this is one poor group performance among a slew of others from the Islanders on Saturday night, but the numbers on this one illustrate it as being particularly ugly. That’ll have to be worked out. I know a lot of people on this site love Kieffer Bellows, and I do too, but the Nelson line hasn’t performed that poorly in a while, and it coincided with his placement there.

If I’m Barry Trotz, I give this line a chance to redeem itself on Monday, but with a very short leash. If it starts going south again, I quickly swap Bellows and Anthony Beauvillier or Leo Komarov to try and salvage the remainder of the game. If that doesn’t work, well, that’s why the Islanders should be buyers at the April 12 trade deadline, right?

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