The Islanders continued their Western Canadian Road trip last night with a 3-1 defeat to the Edmonton Oilers. Coming off an impressive victory against the Vancouver Canucks, the Islanders hoped to continue the offensive production.
The Islanders had a very strong first period, controlling the play and having two Power Plays. The Islanders greatly outshot the Oilers in the period.
Despite controlling play and having the better chances, the Oilers scored the first goal of the game with a shot from Cody Ceci from the point, where Ilya Sorokin was screened.
Islanders Baffled by Mike Smith
Mike Smith has played in just 8 games this season prior to the Islanders game. The 6-foot 5-inch veteran goaltender has had a solid career but has struggled the last few seasons.
Smith is a big goalie and drops down to take away the bottom half of the net. The Islanders were creating quality chances in the first period, but mostly from close to the net. This played well into Smith’s strengths.
Despite creating some odd man rushes, the Islanders chances were forced down low in close to the net. Smith was able to effortlessly cover the lower half of the net and damper any scoring opportunities.
The goal by Anthony Beauvillier was on the Power Play where the Islanders were able to move the puck well and get Smith moving left and right. Smith was out of position, allowing Beauvillier to have a large part of the net available.
Unfortunately, this would be the only chance the Islanders created while Smith was in movement.
Oliver Wahlstrom’s wicked wrist shot gave Smith problems as the game progressed but was unable to sneak one past Smith. From an odd angle, Wahlstrom beat Smith but the puck knicked the cross bar.
Barry Trotz began shuffling the lines this road trip with much success in Vancouver and the first period in Edmonton. The veterans have become too comfortable on their respective lines, and it was a good opportunity to mix it up.
Butch Goring pointed out during the game that mixing grinding players with skill players has allowed the players to simplify and use their outlets.
Having Cal Clutterbuck on the top line with Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee seemed to create different types of scoring opportunities for the line. Clutterbuck has a dangerous shot but knows how to keep things simple and keep the puck deep in the offensive zone.
Although this is not a long-term answer, the freshness of Clutterbuck on the line will hopefully refresh Barzal’s style and realize the additional options in the offensive zone to create scoring chances.
Islanders’ No Shows
Since dealing with an injury in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, J.G. Pageau has been invisible for the most part this season. Pageau is not a flashy player that will only produce on the scoresheet, but something is not right with Pageau.
The strength of this team is down the middle and a big reason that Pageau was targeted at the deadline by Lou Lamoriello. His impact early on was second to none. Pageau can contriute in every aspect of the game. Strong in the defensive zone, Pageau allows his wingers to focus on the offensive part of the game.
Whether Pageau is still recovering from an injury or not, the team needs more from him to return to the level of the prior seasons.
Josh Bailey has been a target of the fan base for quite some time, but this has been an especially difficult season for the assistant captain.
Bailey has struggled in the defensive zone and seemed flat footed last evening.
The Power Play was always a chance for Bailey to use his creativity, but lately he has slowed the momentum down and has second guessed his decisions.
All these issues aside, Bailey continues to turn over the puck in every zone. It is baffling to see him continue to get the opportunities after so many turn overs.
It is tough to justify Bailey playing top six minutes while Kieffer Bellows continues to watch from the press box.
The Islanders will have a chance to bounce back tonight against the Calgary Flames. The Flames have had a strong season and are playing well under Darryl Sutter. It will be the toughest contest of the visit to Alberta.