The NY Islanders woeful power play is dark cloud over playoff optimism

New York Islanders v New York Rangers
New York Islanders v New York Rangers / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The NY Islanders are in the middle of their second consecutive race to the NHL playoffs. Last year, in game 82 of the season they beat the Montreal Canadiens to claim the final eastern wild card spot. They went on to play the Carolina Hurricanes and took them to 6 games in the first round. This year, heading into game 80 of the season, the Isles are sitting at the third spot in the Metropolitan Division and may face off against the Hurricanes yet again or their biggest rivals in the New York Rangers.

The Islanders have struggled with the little details all season. Missed passes, too many passes, trying to get too fancy at the blue line, letting up leads during the second and third periods, goalie struggles, the list goes on. But the biggest issue the Islanders have had all season has been their special teams. The Islanders penalty kill and power play have been nothing but atrocious all season, and come the playoffs, refs often get whitsle-happy and teams win series because of the man advantage. With the way their power play and penalty kill have been going this season unless they can start declining power plays, it may just be their Achilles heel.

The Islanders' power play is currently at 19.4% putting them at 21st in the league. Their potential matchups in the Rangers and Canes are second and fourth, respectively. The Rangers power play has been lethal all season at 26.8%. They have faced off against the Islanders twice in the past week and scored on 2/4 power plays over the course of the two games. In the two previous games in the season the Rangers went 3/6 on the man advantage, averaging at 50% on the power play this season against the Islanders. The Rangers' power play is home to snipers Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, while Chris Kreider stays solid in front of the net and Adam Fox at the point, and that's just on their top unit. For Carolina, their power play is at 26.6% on the season.

The Canes and Islanders faced off three times under Lane Lambert and once in the Patrick Roy era. In four games this season, the Hurricanes went 4/11 on the power play. The fact that the Islanders took 11 penalties in four games alone is an insane stat and something that needs to be fixed come the playoffs, but the Canes averaged 33.4% against the Islanders this season. The Canes also have an absolutely lethal top power-play unit with Islanders killer Jake Guentzel, Sebastian Aho, Martin Necas, Brent Burns, and Seth Jarvis on the man advantage. That's not even mentioning how strong their second unit is, with just as big of names and skills as the first.

When it comes to the penalty kill, the Islanders have been absolutely awful for the entirety of the season. They used to be known as a shut down team, hardly ever allowing their opponents to score on the power play, but that has all seemed to change this year. The Islanders are currently sitting at dead last in the NHL at 71.8%, while the Rangers and Hurricanes average 84.4% (3rd) and 86.2% (1st), respectively. The Islanders' power play is nowhere near good enough to face off against these shutdown penalty-kill teams. Not to mention that the Islanders allowed Brandon Schneider to score a shorthanded goal in their final matchup of the season. The Islanders' penalty kill has improved recently, but when it comes to the playoffs, it needs to be even better

With the playoffs comes a new level of physicality and skill that draws more penalties than the regular season. The Islanders play their best hockey at 5 on 5 and need to focus on defending the Rangers and Hurricanes star players, because they have a lot of them, without taking stupid penalties. With Noah Dobson, who usually mans the top power-play unit, listed at day-to-day, the Isles need to focus on perfecting their power play. As for the penalty kill, a team's best penalty killer has to be their goalie, and while Ilya Sorokin has been struggling lately, he played his best game of the season and is starting to look like his old self against the Rangers. Semyon Varlamov has been hot recently, and the Islanders seem to be sticking with him for the time being as the starter, but come the playoffs, both goalies need to be sharp, especially when down a man.

The Islanders have the ability to do some damage in the playoffs so long as they can stay out of the box, focus on their power play, and play Islanders hockey at even-strength.