3 huge X-Factors that will make or break the rest of the Islanders season

The Islanders are still in the playoff hunt, and to maximize their chances, they must improve three major areas of their game.

Feb 18, 2024; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30)
Feb 18, 2024; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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Time for the penalty kill to match the power play’s success

The Islanders may not be a high-scoring unit in 2023-24, but their power play has so far been a success, ranking seventh in the NHL with a 23.81 conversion rate. This outstanding number could be a major difference-maker if it wasn’t for New York’s sketchy play in the defensive zone and their struggles on the penalty kill. 

While the Isles have been one of the NHL’s best teams in scoring shorthanded goals with nine, that’s about as good as it’s gotten for their PK unit. With a PK success rate of just 70.73, New York’s unit is still 32nd in the league, and the next remotely playoff-caliber team on the list is the Nashville Predators, who rank 27th with a 75.43 rate. 

Someone like Henrique would provide some relief at 4-on-5, but one player also won’t make an incredible difference. Besides bringing in a valuable trade piece, the entire unit must collectively get better and it needs to happen quickly if the Isles want to stick around the playoff race in any capacity. If that doesn’t happen, and if by extension their play doesn’t improve defensively at 5-on-5, it will be tough to sneak into the playoffs this season. 

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(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference as of February 20th)