With the second OT loss in the last two games, the New York Islanders are officially on a ten-game losing streak. It's not ten regulation losses, they're 0-8-2 in the span, but an OT loss is a loss nonetheless (even if they got two loser points).
So, to digest the losses, or at least work ourselves through them lets look at ten takeaways from those ten losses. Not individually, but as a collective. What can we takeaway from these loses?
New York Islanders: Ten takeaways from ten losses
1. Key Guys Haven't Been Key: Through the ten-game losing streak the Isles have scored eleven goals. Barzal, Lee, Nelson, and Wahlstrom account for 72% of those goals. Keep in mind that Lee and Nelson have missed four of the ten games.
The Islanders aren't getting enough (or any) production from guys like Beauvillier, Parise, Pageau, and Palmieri. Those five guys, all of which should either be 20 goals scorers or close to it, have a single goal between them (Palmieri) in this streak.
If the Islanders are going to get out of this funk those five guys will be the key in doing so. If these guys can't figure it out, the Isles are dead in the water.
2. Weak Play: The power play is designed to give a team an unfair scoring advantage by removing an opposing player. Being a player down should be such a massive weakness that teams should be disincentivized from being penalized. That doesn't apply when playing the Islanders.
The power play has been bad for a while but it's particularly bad in this run. Going 3/28, the Isles PP is an abysmal 10.7%. On the season they're 13.5%, which somehow isn't the worst in the league. How do they fix it?
Start by playing the best guys all on one line? For a while, Barzal and Wahlstrom (the two better offensive weapons on the team) played on separate PP units. They've only started seeing the same ice in the Toronto game and it paid off against Detroit with two goals on the man advantage. It's a good start.
3. Wahlly and Barzy: With the team starving for offense, why haven't the team's two best offensive weapons been put together, outside of the power play?
Well, good news, sorta, Barry Trotz is pairing them at 5on5, at least over the last few games. The two have just under four minutes of 5on5 time over the last two games and hold an 84% xGF rate. They're pretty good at generating offense while not really giving any up.
Going forward the two need to play more as the team searches for offense.
4. Trotz's risk aversion: The reason Barzal and Wahlstrom haven't played more than three minutes at 5on5 is because of the coaching staff's aversion to taking a risk when a risk is needed. It's the reason Wahlstrom wasn't out in overtime against Detroit, even though he had two goals on the day.
See the 2:45 mark of this video where Trotz states that they thought about playing Wahlstrom during OT but didn't because he's never done it before and there are certain responsibilities off the draw:
I understand Trotz is worried about mistakes at 3on3, but it's not like his OT regulars are covering themselves in glory right now with a 0-3 OT record. At some point, you've got to let talent do what talent does and accept that a mistake might be made.
5. Scott Mayfield Transition Game: There is no one on the team with more giveaways in this ten-game stretch than Scott Mayfield's eleven. Mayfield is a good shut-down defenseman. He's great on the PK. But when it comes to moving the puck out of the zone, or making that first pass out, he's an absolutely liability.
It's a problem that isn't exactly helped by paring Mayfield with Pelech. Neither of them are known as transition players (though Pelech is the better of the two). It's understandable that Pelech and Mayfield have a good left-right balance, but they don't have complementary skillsets. And that's hurting the Islanders.
6. Sorokin cant bail them out all the time: Against the Red Wings, Sorokin was clearly at fault for Sam Gagner's goal. Sorokin tried to play the cross-slot pass that never came. In doing so he opened a gap off his back that Gagner expertly exploited.
To be fair to Sorokin, he's been excellent through much of this run. He's kept his team in more games than they deserve to be in. The players in front of him have to help him out when he inevitably lets a soft one in.
Not allowing so many odd-man rushes, or perhaps scoring at even strength, would help paper over whatever mistake Sorokin makes going forward.
7. Seeing what they got: This could be filed under the risk aversion takeaway, but I want to highlight how the Islanders didn't take the opportunity to see what they got from a guy like Golyshev or how they aren't playing Salo now that the team is basically healthy.
Golyshev didn't get a game during the Islanders COVID period. Why? Who knows really. Trotz said Golyshev wasn't ready even though the only thing Golyshev has done since Trotz sang his praise in training camp was score a nearly half-goal per game at the AHL level. Why move the goalposts when the lineup is starved for goals and most of the regulars are out?
With Salo; he was the most used defenseman during the COVID period, but now that everyone is back (minus Pulock of course) he isn't in a game? Why not see what he's got with all this talent back to support him? Hopefully, he'll get playing time on Sunday against Chicago.
8. Not analytics darlings: Last year, the Islanders were analytics darlings (of sorts). They were seventh in the NHL for xGF. That isn't the case anymore. The Islanders are 31st for xGF in the NHL.
Over the ten losses, the Isles have created 17 xGF (scoring eleven). Only the Senators have less than the Isles. That's the analytics matching the eye test. Not only are the Isles not scoring goals, but they aren't creating enough to get those goals.
9. Sinking feeling: The Isles have picked up two points from a possible twenty in this stretch. Sinking them to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division. This losing streak has come at the absolute worst time for anyone hoping the Isles could start making up some ground in the division.
During the Islanders road trip, the Metro was all above 0.500, now that the Isles are losing half of the Metro is also losing. Meaning the Isles aren't able to start gaining ground on some of the team just above them.
10.Positives? I know we all want to vent and sit in this misery, but there are some bright spots on the team.
-Mathew Barzal is still putting up 0.6 points per game while the rest of the team does nothing. I know that's only a 50 point pace over a full year but again, no one else is doing anything. So he's a 50 point player all on his own. That's...good.
-Ilya Sorokin has been good even if his GSAA is -0.72. On his 12.14 xGF he's allowed 13. He's been as good as expected. And again, he's kept the team in games when they had no right to. With the D-Core basically back, he should be even better.
-Penalty Kill: It's not been amazing, but at 84.4% it's been middle of the pack. And that's good considering how everything else around them has been well...not good.