3. The Islanders Power-Play Continues to Struggle
The New York Islanders power-play continues to be a problem. The Islanders have only once converted on a power-play in April, and that’s out of 12 opportunities. Since March 2, they have scored only five times on 48 opportunities. Since the first game sans Anders Lee, on March 13, the team is 4-for-36 on the man advantage.
This isn’t a new problem. The Islanders have struggled on power-plays since 2018-19, Barry Trotz’s first season behind the bench, and John Tavares’s first as a Maple Leaf. The team has switched power-play coaches, only to see slight improvement in power-play percentage, and that improvement is barely noticeable on nights like Thursday.
Something needs to give. This team is too good to continue being dragged through the mud by their poor power-play. I’ve done a couple different analysis pieces on the power-play during the 2020-21 season, though those are both a bit out of date at this point, and don’t account for missing Anders Lee, who was a key cog in making the man advantage work for the Islanders earlier in the season.
Basically, the short version of my power-play analysis was that the Islanders should abandon the 1-3-1, or umbrella formation. Get rid of the bumper from the high slot, and play a two-high, two-low system with their fifth man playing a roving support role to keep passing and shooting lanes open, while also providing support for teammates who may get pressured by opposition penalty killers.
An agile, high-IQ player like Mathew Barzal would suit that last role perfectly, and we’ve seen it work this season, too. I also covered that in a different power-play analysis piece.
Whatever the solution, things cannot continue this way. As teams ramp up and get into playoff mode, games are going to become tighter at 5v5, and that’s going to take away a lot of scoring chances in that game state, a game state where the Islanders have thrived offensively in 2020-21 through strong possession play.
I don’t believe in talking about momentum. If you’ve read any of my work on this site, you can probably tell I’m someone who relies pretty heavily on analytics and stats for my analysis. I believe in what can be measured or quantified. Momentum, simply put, cannot be measured. It’s not that I don’t trust my eyes, the eye test does have its uses for the things that slip underneath the stats, I just trust the numbers more.
But, if there were ever a momentum-killing power-play, it would be that Islanders five-minute opportunity in the first period of Thursday’s game. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.
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It needs to be fixed, and it needs to be fixed fast. For the Islanders to compete at the highest levels against the NHL’s elite teams, they’re going to need a power-play that isn’t the hockey embodiment of a wet fart. Until they get that sufficient power-play, I don’t believe they will beat the elites in a seven-game series. At least, not from what I saw on Thursday.