The New York Islanders' power play has been a dreadful 1 for 30 over the previous 10 games. Sure, teams run into bad luck, hit some posts, or be bested by great goaltending. Those that have watched closely know that's not what's happening here.
The team looks out of sorts, disorganized, and without a plan with the man advantage, often conceding the better scoring opportunities to their short-handed opponent. After weeks of waiting for things to turn around, head coach Lane Lambert is ready to make changes.
In mid-December, the warning signs were that the Isles' power play was becoming a problem. After the Islanders' 4-3 shootout loss in Boston on Dec. 14, Lambert was asked about the unit, which was 2-14 over the previous five games.
“Our power play has been good,” Lambert said. "It’s been running over 30%, 25% in the last 14 games, so I’m not going to say anything bad about our power play, that’s for sure." Despite what the numbers and the head coach were saying at the time., what once would have been considered a slump has manifested into a clear and obvious liability.
After Sunday's 4-1 loss to Seattle and another 0-for-2 on the power play, Lambert appeared ready to make changes. “We’re going to look at it obviously in the next day because we had (two chances), the game could have been a different story. That has to start producing. Right now it’s just not. We’ll have to take a good, close look at it.”
At Monday's practice in Vancouver, Lambert shook up the units, moving PP quarterback Noah Dobson to a different group and having Sebastian Aho or Ryan Pulock work with Brock Nelson, Mathew Barzal, and JG Pageau. The emphasis at practice was breakouts, as Lambert sees the team's inconsistency in moving up the ice out of their zone as a weakness.
"We weren’t clean on our breakouts. It starts there. You can’t play with speed if you don’t execute or exit your zone cleanly and we didn’t do that. Then, when we did have the puck in the neutral zone at times, we turned it over instead of getting it in deep and establishing our forecheck."- Lane Lambert
The new look units will get their first opportunity against the Vancouver Canucks tonight at Rogers Arnea. The Canucks have the league's work penalty kill unit at 67.9%.
“We had to do something,” Barzal said after yesterday's practice. “And the coaches chose to do that. It’s a little bit of a different look. Maybe throw a team off. Having a different look, I think that’s needed sometimes.”