NY Islanders power play shake-up last chance to find answers with man advantage
It's now or never.
It's been now or never.
If the New York Islanders fail to make the post-season, the summer analysis won't be limited to the power-play, but their inept numbers with the man-advantage will be the biggest culprit as to why they failed to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season.
The Islanders rank 30th in the league on the power-play at 16.05%, ahead of only the Philadelphia Flyers and Anaheim Ducks. If the Islanders were simply league-average, it's not an exaggeration to think they'd be comfortably in a playoff spot and perhaps pushing the New York Rangers for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
The team has scored just 34 power-play goals this season. Compare that to the Ottawa Senators, a team behind the Islanders in the standings, that has scored 70 or the Buffalo Sabres that have scored 60 with the man-advantage. The Isles have been fine 5-on-5 this season. Per MoneyPuck, they are 14th in the league in expected goals at even strength and 19th in goals scored. If those similar type rankings were applied to the power-play, conventional wisdom would be that Lane Lambert's team would not holding onto the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by just one point over the Pittsburgh Penguins with four games to play.
At practice on Tuesday, there was another power-play shakeup. The team’s most productive line of Pierre Engvall - Brock Nelson - Kyle Palmieri kept together, with Zach Pariseproviding net presence and Noah Dobson running things from the point. On the other unit, Ryan Pulock was located on the left wall withSebastian Aho and Samuel Bolduc rotating as the other D. Anders Lee, JG Pageau, and Bo Horvat were the forward group.
“You can’t just keep beating a dead horse,”Bo Horvat told Newsday . “If it’s not working, then you’ve got to change something up. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to have to happen now, especially when you have practice time and being able to get used to your new units.”
At some point over the next four games, the Islanders will need a power-play goal, either to seize momentum, get back into a hockey game or put a game away. They've made incredible difficult on themselves in recent weeks since the Mathew Barzal injury with few signs that it is going to get better. The team is 5-for-46 (10.9%) since Barzal’s injury after going 6-for-18 (33.3%) when he was in the lineup alongside Horvat.
Until a Barzal return happens, Lambert has to continue to try to make something work with the players he has, hoping that a slightly new mix will produce different results while preaching the same message he has all season. You'd think they are due, but they've been due for over half a season.