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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
Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

2. Islanders Recent xG Metrics Reflect Poor Play

The New York Islanders 5v5 Score and Venue Adjusted statistics for the first three months of the 2020-21 NHL season were extremely good. Their 56.07 xGF% between January 13 and April 1 was the third-best mark in that category across the NHL, and it reflected the 5v5 dominance of the Islanders to that point in the season.

*All stats courtesy of Evolving Hockey

What xGF% basically can tell you is that the Islanders were accumulating scoring chances in greater quantity and quality than their head-to-head opponents at a better rate than 28 other NHL teams through the first of April.

Unfortunately, things have gone a bit off the rails for the Islanders since then. Their xGF% between April 3 and May 4 sits at 49.36%, a staggering drop from the lofty heights of the early and mid-season, which has seen them fall to 17th-best in the NHL in xGF%.

Per 60 minutes, the Islanders xGF fell from 2.45 to 2.28. Meanwhile, their xGA/60 has risen from 1.92 to 2.34, which in reality is probably a much worse sign for this team than the former.

I know there will probably be those people who say “but analytics have never favored the Islanders, and they did pretty well last year.” And that’s fair, but it also would be ignoring the fact that the Islanders became analytics darlings during their time in the Toronto bubble, and that they had done so to an even greater degree this season.

The Islanders were genuinely one of the best analytics teams in the NHL as we turned the calendar to April. Since then, they’ve fallen to a mediocre one, and we’ve seen that on the ice.

This most recent tough stretch has been the worst slump the Islanders have encountered all season. It’s booted them from a top-two place in the East Division to a team who simply looked content with fourth on Monday and Tuesday.

And while there’s a lot to break down and digest about the team’s downward trend, that’s probably best left for another day. For now, the team’s goal should just be getting the train back on the rails before the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which are not far away at all now.

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