2. The downside of Game One – The Slow Start and the Power Play
The Islanders first and second-period performances did not go a long way toward assuring anyone that their end-of-season slide had been merely an aberration. New York afforded far too many high-quality looks to the Penguins in the opening frame and had barely any of their own.
As my tweet above shows, the Islanders took only 39.4% of the unblocked shot attempts during the opening frame. Less than a quarter of scoring chances belonged to New York, with the high-danger chances being even more lopsided towards Pittsburgh’s favor.
As a result, the Isles unsurprisingly ended up with less than 30% of the xG share from the opening 20 minutes of Game One action.
The second period saw gradual improvement from the Islanders, though that was only after the midway point of the frame. The opening ten minutes of the middle frame were similar to the first period.
Sloppy transitional play, too many turnovers, and poor defensive coverages earmarked the opening ten minutes of the second period for New York. However, their play did pick up from that point, and the period’s overall stats reflect that more so than the eye test did, for me at least.
The peak of futility in that period was the Islanders abysmal display on the man advantage. With Jeff Carter in the penalty box for high-sticking Brock Nelson for four minutes, the Islanders mustered barely any threatening offense.
As previously stated, Palmieri’s look at the net from the inner slot was the most dangerous moment of the Islander power-play, and it did not convert. Pittsburgh would clear the zone shortly thereafter, and the Islanders complete inability to enter the zone with control of the puck doomed the rest of the power-play.
The Islanders at 5v4 have been a mess for most of 2020-21. The team saw a brief run of success on the man advantage early in the month of March, but following Anders Lee’s injury that success just seemed to melt away. It’s a problem New York has struggled with for Barry Trotz’s entire reign, and it isn’t likely to be fixed in the span of this playoff run.
What can likely be fixed though is the way the Islanders play early in games. The team simply cannot afford to give away periods as they did the first and second going forward. That isn’t a new trend for Trotz’s team, but it’s one that needs to be bucked ASAP for this group to see a long and successful playoff run.