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What’s the problem with the Islanders early in season?

SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 16: Sam Reinhart #13 of the Florida Panthers is unable to get the rebound given up by goaltender Ilya Sorokin #30 of the New York Islanders at the FLA Live Arena on October 16, 2021 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 16: Sam Reinhart #13 of the Florida Panthers is unable to get the rebound given up by goaltender Ilya Sorokin #30 of the New York Islanders at the FLA Live Arena on October 16, 2021 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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Things aren’t right with the New York Islanders at the moment. That’s obvious if you just look at the last two results. The Isles have allowed eleven goals against through 120 minutes of game time.

Just to compare, it took six games in 20-21, five-ish games in 18-19, and four-ish games in 19-20 to run up the same number of goals against. So, again, things aren’t going well right now. So what’s going on exactly? Well, the team just isn’t able to play their system. Like at all.

What’s the problem with the New York Islanders early in the season?

Look, I know that doesn’t sound like a particularly wild take when the Isles have allowed as many goals as they have over the past two games, but it’s important to remember the type of game the Islanders like to play.

The Islanders aren’t a puck-possession team. They allow their opponents to control the puck but in doing so they give said opponent literally nothing of quality. The Islanders, typically, do a great job of boxing out opponents to the outside and snuffing out any dangerous attempts on the inside. That’s what the Islanders do. Typically.

But over the last two games, the Isles haven’t been able to do that. The Islanders D has been soft in the slot, allowing dangerous opportunities to pile up, and get converted on. They have little to no gap control to speak of. And generally, they look like a shell of their former selves in the D-zone.

And I know the first thought is to find one scapegoat to pile our frustrations on. To find one person to blame for these problems. But there isn’t just one person to blame here. The entire d-core has been dreadful (aside from perhaps Adam Pelech).

Fans will point to Zdeno Chara‘s -4 on Saturday as some sort of obvious sign he’s cooked. But to be fair you can blame his defensive partner for three of those minuses from the loss to the Panthers.

And look, we all know that plus/minus is a garbage stat, but if you’re someone who’s looking at that as a way to explain one player’s issue then just look at the rest of the blue line through two games:

The issue isn’t one player. They’ve all (again aside from Adam Pelech) been bad. As a whole, the team is unable to play defense. Fundamental mistakes are being made on a nightly basis. From the defense to the forwards, and even in nets.

According to NaturalStatTrick, Sorokin has allowed nine goals on 4.71 expected goals against. That’s really bad.

When you start looking into each individual player’s numbers a trend emerges; they’ve all been bad. The team as a whole is not performing well. The solution might seem to swap out a player for, say, Sebastian Aho, but that won’t, in-and-of-itself turn this around for the Isles. The issue plaguing the Islanders right now is fundamentals.

They, seemingly, have no idea how to do the simple things right in this system. Fix that and this team can return to winning ways, or at the very least, be in a better position for someone like Sebastian Aho or Robin Salo to have a positive impact on the team.

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