The NY Islanders have lacked mental sharpness when playing back-to-back games

Mar 24, 2024; Elmont, New York, USA;  New York Islanders center Kyle Palmieri (21) falls to the ice
Mar 24, 2024; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders center Kyle Palmieri (21) falls to the ice / Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders vexed their matinee game struggles on Saturday afternoon with a resounding 6-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets, but a little more than 24 hours later, they were unable to end another troubling trend of the season, their inability to win on the backends of back-to-backs.

"I think it's a mindset," said defenseman Ryan Pulock, following the 4-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Sunday at UBS Arena. "Everyone is in good enough shape to play in back-to-back days. We played at one o'clock yesterday [Saturday]; we had time."

"You might not have your best legs, but you have sure you're sharp mentally,," Pulock added. "Whether that's making sure a puck gets out, you just have to find other ways to be engaged."

The Islanders dropped to 0-6-3 this season in that spot, a situation where the team thrived under Barry Trotz. During those four seasons, the Islanders were 27-15-5 in the second game of back-to-backs, but that number is even better when you consider they went 6-11-1 in his final season, where they were forced to play an eye-popping 18 back-to-backs during a season that was full of stops and starts due to Covid. There's been turnover since the Trotz years, and while the team is older, it doesn't necessarily account for why the team has had so many poor performances in back-to-backs, often against teams that have had to travel themselves or were playing a backup goaltender.

"We don't talk about it," head coach Patrick Roy said in the post-game. "We come to the rink with a mindset of winning a hockey game."

The Islanders outshot the Devils 13-5 in the opening period, another strong start for a team that has allowed the fewest first period goals in the league. They had their legs, but three straight penalties left them defending a 5-on-3 power play to start the second which led to a goal and things unraveled from there thanks in part to mental miscues.

"I feel like it's been like this for a while," Roy said when asked about the team not being as sharp mentally as they need to be. "We always have some moments mentally where we make a mistake or bad coverage, and it hurts us at the wrong time."

The Islanders mercilessly have only one more back-to-back remaining on their schedule this season on Apr 1st and 2nd. They'll be in Philadelphia on the 1st before traveling back to Long Island to host Connor Bedard and the Chicago Blackhawks.