2. Another Slow Start Dooms the Islanders
Say what you will about Varlamov’s early flub on Bryan Rust’s goal, but the larger problem still remains that the Islanders continue to start games late. The defense was poor. They consistently mishandled pucks and made questionable passes or plays. While the offense did get some opportunities to score, they failed to convert and were kept away from the slot for the most part.
By and large, the Islanders simply found themselves playing Pittsburgh’s style of game in the first period, and on most nights they’re simply not going to be able to win that way.
Natural Stat Trick had each team with over 1 Expected Goal (xG) in the first period. That’s a lot considering the entire frame was played at 5v5, and it’s indicative of a period that was simply too free-flowing and driven by the offenses.
Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock were uncharacteristically burned as a pass snuck behind them and sent Jake Guentzel on a semi-breakaway. Nick Leddy, usually one of the better puck-transporting defensemen on the Islanders roster, was stuffed at his own blue line and gave away possession far too frequently.
Noah Dobson in particular had a very poor game, easily the worst of any Islanders defenseman, and it was never more apparent than in the first period. Dobson turned over possession frequently in attempts to exit his own zone, and in turn, that’s where he played most of his game.
Dobson finished the night as one of the worst Islanders in xGF% (32.61%) and Game Score (-0.47), and that reflects his play on Tuesday pretty well.
Pelech and Pulock, the stalwart backbone pairing of the Islanders blue line, had the two lowest Game Scores of any Islanders skaters.
Game three will tell us a lot about this Islanders team. They need to put these slow starts behind them and start games on time from here on out. With game three being played on their home ice in front of a more packed Nassau Coliseum than they’ve played in since before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down North American pro sports, it’s as good a time as any to start doing that.