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Islanders: Three Takeaways from Shootout Loss in Buffalo

BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 15: Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on February 15, 2021 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 15: Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on February 15, 2021 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)
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New York Islanders
Head coach Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The New York Islanders played uninspired and seemingly uninterested hockey for the second time in two nights as they fell to Buffalo in the shootout.

On Tuesday night, already having dropped points against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday, the New York Islanders looked to rebound with a win in western New York. But owing to a poor defensive performance and the once again unlikely heroics of ECHL lifer Michael Houser, the Islanders didn’t rebound. Instead, they fell in the shootout.

Here are three takeaways from the loss.

1. Islanders Did Not Play Barry Trotz Hockey

The New York Islanders got away from the brand of hockey that has made them so successful under head coach Barry Trotz on Tuesday. Playing against a Sabres team who have been one of the worst NHL squads at generating scoring chances and goals at 5v5, the Islanders simply handed them opportunities to create offense.

With Mathew Barzal out of the lineup, one might’ve surmised prior to Tuesday’s game that the Islanders would struggle to generate offensive opportunities for themselves. That didn’t turn out to be the case.

There were plenty of uncashed opportunities for the Islanders to score. Players like Adam Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier, and Oliver Wahlstrom all had a handful of chances from the inner slot or nearby that were not converted.

Sure, those opportunities didn’t become goals for the most part, but they were created. The looks were there in greater numbers than they usually are for the Islanders, according to Natural Stat Trick. The offense wasn’t the problem, no matter how bad the optics of being beaten twice in two nights by an ECHL journeyman goalie are.

The problem was defense. The Isles turned the puck over far too frequently and easily. They looked lazy, almost uninterested in playing in their own zone, and that effort reflected itself in the many opportunities Buffalo had as well.

According to MoneyPuck’s Deserve to Win O’Meter, the Islanders should’ve won Tuesday’s game almost 72% of the time, if both goalies had regressed to average.

Of course, we know that’s not how hockey is played. Some nights a goalie just shuts you down. I wouldn’t say Houser stymied the Islanders in that sense, but it was fairly clear that New York could’ve done a lot more to close down the prime real estate from which Buffalo took many of their shots.

In the end, they didn’t do that. The Sabres converted at a more efficient clip, and that’s in large part due to the Islanders just not playing their style.

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