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Islanders power play surprisingly functional without two key pieces

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 25: Oliver Wahlstrom #26 of the New York Islanders celebrates his third period goal against the Boston Bruins at Nassau Coliseum on February 25, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Bruins 7-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 25: Oliver Wahlstrom #26 of the New York Islanders celebrates his third period goal against the Boston Bruins at Nassau Coliseum on February 25, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Bruins 7-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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With three power-play goals in Game 5 against the Boston Bruins, the New York Islanders sit with a 29% efficiency on the man-advantage in the postseason. That’s the fourth-best efficiency in the playoffs.

That’s surprising considering the Islanders entered the playoffs with one of the worst PP efficiencies for participating teams. Only three teams in the payoffs – Knights (17.8%), Predators (17.6%), and Wild (17.6%) – had a lower efficiency than the Isles 18.8%.

And the Islanders don’t have Anders Lee nor have they had the services of rookie Oliver Wahlstrom since Game 5 against the Penguins.

New York Islanders power play getting it done without two key pieces

We all know how important Anders Lee is to this team’s power play. The captain is easily one of the better net-front players in the NHL. He’s also been the focal point of the Islanders power play for a while now.

Since Barry Trotz took over in 2018-19, Lee has 15 power-play goals. That’s more than anyone else on the team and accounts for 17% of the Isles scoring on the man advantage. Losing him for most of the season was a blow at 5on5 and on the power play.

With Lee on the ice, the Isles PP was effective 21.9% of the time. Good for 14th in the NHL. But after the injury, that efficiency fell off a cliff to 15.5%, which was the 22nd best PP in the league.

The Islanders got by without Lee specifically because of the emergence of rookie Oliver Wahlstrom. The 2018 first-rounder had five power-play points after Lee’s injury. That’s more than any other player on the team by two points.

Wahlstrom’s impact on the power play this year, outside of points, has been incredible. Here are some of the advanced numbers for Wahlstrom on the power play this year and how that compares to his peers:

  • CF/60: 94.49 (2nd)
  • SF/60: 58.57 (1st)
  • HDCF/60: 34.36 (1st)
  • xGF/60: 8.88 (2nd)

(All stats from NaturalStatTrick and for Isles player with at least 20 minutes of PP time.)

Losing Wahlstrom in Game 5 against the Penguins was going to be a big blow for the PP. Specifically against the Bruins who were fourth on the PK in the regular season with an 86% efficiency.

But, surprisingly, since Wahlstrom left in Game 5 of the Pittsburgh series the Isles are 6-for-17 for an incredible 35% efficiency.

The three guys leading the way are Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, and Noah Dobson. The trio has combined for nine points on the power play since Game 6 against the Penguins.

I don’t know if losing both Lee and then Wahlstrom has caused the Islanders coaching staff (and specifically special teams coach Jim Hiller) to simplify things, but whatever he’s doing without two of his biggest assets is very impressive and frankly long overdue.

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