Islanders need more from key players in top 6 in big games

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders
Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

I think we are all familiar with the fact that the New York Islanders struggle against good teams in the NHL. Not just the elite teams, just any team in a playoff position.

It's a massive problem that needs to be fixed as soon as possible if the Islanders have any chance at getting into a playoff position. Of late it hasn't been simply the losses that are an issue (they are of course) but it's how they're losing that's a problem.

Since December 1, the Islanders have gone 1-4-1 against teams (currently) in a playoff position by scoring 12 goals but allowing 17 against. Three of those goals-for have come in the last three games vs playoff teams*.

*Nashville Dec 9, Boston Dec 16, Vegas Dec 19, Washington Jan 15, Toronto Jan 22, and LA on Jan 27.

The Islanders have always had a problem scoring goals, at least since 2018-19. And that problem is evident against playoff teams with a 2.00 GF against those recent opponents.

New York Islanders issues vs. playoff teams

It's clear that the players responsible for generating offense just aren't doing enough. Looking at cumulative ixG (at 5on5) against those six recently playoff opponents, you can see that the Isles top six just isn't pulling its weight:

Mathew Barzal: 1.05 ixGF (2)
Anders Lee: 0.82 ixGF (3)
Josh Bailey: 0.42 ixGF (13)
Brock Nelson: 0.46 ixGF (11)
Anthony Beauvillier: 0.65 ixGF (6)

In parenthesis are the player's individual expect goals-for rank on the team (for all skaters) in those six games in question.

The fact that Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey rank in the bottom portion of the Islanders group of skaters - eleventh and thirteenth respectively - for individual expected goals is pretty bad. Specifically for Brock.

Brock has been a "big game player" for the Isles since 2018 but isn't that player at the moment. And they need him to be. Of course, it doesn't mean the Islanders are failing to beat good teams because Brock Nelson isn't performing as a top-six player but it's clearly not helping.

The point though is that the top six isn't operating as it should with a third of the guys not performing to their status on the roster. The fact that there isn't a for sure sixth player to add to this list is in and of itself an issue.

The fact that there isn't a for sure sixth player to add in this list is in-and-of-itself an issue.

Bellows? Wahlstrom?

How about the two dynamic offensive youngsters? Where are they in this ixGf/top-six equation? Here's the data lines for both. Again, the numbers are cumulative across all six games and I've included the rank in parenthesis.

Kieffer Bellows: 0.79 ixGF (4), 45.16 TOI (11)*
Oliver Wahlstrom: 1.29 ixGF (1), 53.61 TOI (10)*

*Rank for forwards only.

Both are putting up good numbers in terms of what they're generating but aren't getting the ice time to back it up. If the Islanders want to generate more offense they should probably start putting these guys on the ice more often. Even against big teams.