The New York Islanders are 5-1-1 over their last seven games and have points in eight of their last nine overall. Still, when you take a step back and look at their team stats after 23 games, some make you question how they find themselves in playoff position despite what they're telling you.
They have the 31st ranked power-play in the league (72.6%), are 26th in goals-per-game (2.78) and are allowing the second-most shots against per game (35.8), behind only the San Jose Sharks, the team they host on Tuesday night at UBS Arena.
The PK may rank among the league's worst all season after a brutal stretch during their seven-game winless streak in November. The offense is starting to tick up (14 goals in the last three games), and they were always expected to be middle-of-the-pack anyway. However, the shots against category is the one that has been most prevalent all season long.
The Islanders allowed 45 shots to the Panthers in their 4-3 win in Florida on Saturday night. The previous game they were outshot 43-16 to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Devils had "only" 33 shots on Tuesday night in New Jersey. You get the picture.
“We would certainly like to cut the shot total down the shot total, but our guys battled,” Lane Lambert said after Saturday's win. “There was a tremendous amount of commitment, the [Panthers] are a good team, they’re hard around the net, and they went to the finals last year. It was a battle.”
The Islanders have not allowed fewer than 30 shots in a game since Nov. 11, a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals at home. That's ten straight games. We've spent a lot of time this season writing about the Islanders' propensity for blowing leads, but to be able to blow a lead, you have to have one first.
The Islanders have spent less time trailing than nearly any team in the league this season, and when you are protecting (or trying to protect) a one-goal or multi-goal lead, you tend to sit back more than you should as the opposition starts to push. That inevitably leads to more shot attempts against.
However, as proven by the number of leads they've blown, it's not a recipe for success. They're playing with fire for long stretches of the third period. Sometimes they make it through, like last night when Florida pulled their goaltender with over three minutes left, and many times they won't, as games versus New Jersey and Carolina proved.
Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov are among the best goaltending tandems in the league, but based on Lambert's comments, it's an acknowledgment that the team needs to find ways to limit the number of shots and the high-danger scoring opportunities they're conceding when attempting to hold onto a lead. It's hard to see how they come out unscathed most nights if they don't.