The New York Islanders home record improved to 15-1-2 despite what was a less than optimal performance on Saturday night.
Here are three takeaways from the Islanders latest 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
1. Islanders Didn’t Make Carter Hart’s Job Tough Enough
As of Sunday morning, Carter Hart’s -18.36 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) stat beats out goalies like Ottawa’s Matt Murray, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, and Detroit’s Thomas Greiss for the league’s worst mark in that category.
I’m using Top Down Hockey’s Expected Goals model, so the numbers I used will be slightly different than Moneypuck’s, but here is a link to an interactive list of the league’s worst (and best) goalies, per their GSAx, on Moneypuck.com.
It has been a very difficult season for Hart. Curiosity and rumors have swirled about why he has been so poor in 2020-21 despite an excellent first two NHL seasons. Whatever the cause of Hart’s performances may be, one thing is clear: That opponents playing him should be peppering him with shots at all times. That is something the New York Islanders did not do on Saturday.
The Islanders registered just 11 5v5 unblocked shot attempts (Fenwick For) and 10 SOG through 40 minutes of play on Saturday night. Despite scoring twice, and carrying a 2-0 lead into the third period against Philly, those shot numbers just aren’t good enough. Especially against a goalie like Hart, who has struggled more than any other NHL netminder at saving goals above expected.
Part of the problem was the Islanders just not playing with the puck enough. They were outpaced in Corsi and Fenwick at 5v5 for all three regulation periods of the game, but the 5v5 unblocked shot attempt numbers after 40 minutes were 22-11 in favor of Philadelphia.
Another issue was that the Islanders didn’t take the chance to shoot enough when they did have the puck. The Islanders game under Barry Trotz has always revolved around cycling and forechecking in the offensive zone until an opportunity from the dangerous areas opens up. The trouble with that strategy is when the cycle isn’t crisp, or the forecheck isn’t effective, those opportunities don’t always present themselves.
That was pretty much the case for the Islanders on Saturday. The passing wasn’t good enough to keep the cycle alive, the forecheckers weren’t always positioned to pressure the Flyer defense, and it led to a lot of opportunities for Philadelphia to clear their zone without facing any real danger against their goalie.
I’m not someone who yells “shoot!” at their TV very often, but I might’ve done it once or twice while watching this game. Sometimes, especially when facing a goalie struggling as badly as Hart has, it’s important to just get pucks on net. The Islanders didn’t do that enough, and it made Hart’s job a whole lot easier on Saturday night.