On Monday night versus the Washington Capitals, the New York Islanders scored three goals in a game for only the second time in their last nine games. It was the earliest three goals the Isles have scored this season at UBS Arena and their second-earliest anywhere this season (23:31) at New Jersey on Dec. 9th. Still, when they needed that fourth to extend the lead and put the game away, the struggling group of top playmakers wasn't able to convert their opportunities.
Lane Lambert: The NY Islanders "absolutely" have enough finishers
"We had our chances, [but] we weren't able to put the game away when we had our opportunities," Matt Martin said. "And obviously, that was a big game, so they're not going to go away quietly, but there's still some areas we can clean up.
In the post-game, head coach Lane Lambert was asked if he had enough "finishers" on the roster. "Absolutely," Lambert responded in defense of his team. "We've been creating opportunities. There's certain guys that have been in droughts and they'll come out of them."
Prior to being a scratch on Jan. 6 vs. the Calgary Flames, center Mathew Barzal had scored a goal in five consecutive games, but he was the only player in the top nine that was finding the net with any regularity. The scoring drought has become prolonged for a number of players simultaneously over the last 12-18 games, most notably Noah Dobson (0 goals, 14 games) and Brock Nelson (0 goals, 13 games) following Monday's 4-3 OT loss.
The Islanders have six players with 10+ goals this season. Entering Monday, only three teams had more such players: the Bruins, Devils, and Blues, all entered with seven. After Sebastian Aho's goal last night, the Islander defense has scored 27 goals (tied with Florida and Carolina for the NHL lead).
The Islanders' problem has remained the same for years. They have a deep roster with a number of 2nd/3rd line types with the ability to score 20 goals. But what other teams boast that the Islanders do not is a relentless elite scoring option that rarely, if ever, goes into a prolonged scoring drought.
Perhaps Lambert is right and and it's only a matter of time that certain players break out - and if it all happens at the same time, the Isles could be a dangerous offensive team for a while, but each game that goes by without that happening puts the Islanders in more danger of falling further behind in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.