HOW IT HAPPENED
From the start, the NY Islanders were beaten in pretty much every facet of the game. The trio of Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Filip Hronek took center stage, as they have done for most of this season. The Canucks- now 27-11-3 on the season- dominated possession and took advantage of some friendly officiating to put the Islanders away in the second period. Adam Pelech, rusty in his first game back after missing 20 games due to injury, was mugged a few times, most critically ten minutes into the second period when he gave up the puck to Hronek, leading to Pettersson's 20th goal of the season. Ilya Sorokin looked uncomfortable in net again; after a slow start to the season and then a hot month of December, the Islanders must be concerned about Sorokin's workload in the wake of Semyon Varlamov's injury. If Sorokin isn't at the top of his game, the Isles are in huge trouble moving forward. Last night was a missed opportunity to put Ken Appleby in the game, as Sorokin could obviously use some rest and it would behoove the Isles to see what they have in Appleby.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Not much. Brock Nelson scored two goals in the loss, and Pelech coming back from injury bodes well moving forward, last night notwithstanding. The Best Fourth Line in Hockey had one shift in particular that was extremely memorable, hitting everything in sight in the second period. Due to that shift, for a couple of minutes at 2-0 Vancouver, the Isles had hope- but Pettersson's 3-0 goal extinguished that optimism. Pierre Engvall was skating well, and Kyle Palmieri had a very strong evening.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Mostly everything else. Casey Cizikas was injured blocking a shot, and the Islanders can hardly afford more injuries right now. Sorokin's struggles have been a bit of a concern all season, and too many times this season he's looked uncomfortable in his crease. I was never a goalie, but from my eye, he seems to be playing very deep in his crease and going down to his knees too quickly, as he's starting to miss shots he's traditionally stopped. Tyler Myers' goal is a good example: while the slap shot was a missile, Sorokin stops that shot 99 out of 100 times. Of course, the Islanders are statistically one of the worst defensive teams in the league, so they're not exactly helping out their franchise goaltender.
STATS OF THE GAME
- The Islanders have now lost 4 of their last 5 games. While they still remain in the first Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference, their position is increasingly precarious, as there are tons of teams directly on their heels in the standings.
- The Islanders went 10-5-5 in the 20 games Pelech missed. While conventional wisdom suggests the Islanders will improve with Pelech, he has looked slower on the ice this season and his decision-making hasn't quite been as sublime as it has been in years' past. Similar to Sorokin, the Isles need the best version of Pelech if they're going to make noise later this season.
- Quinn Hughes became the fourth defenseman in NHL history to have 50+ points and a +30 rating in his first 41 games of a season. While he's had a spectacular season that is preventing Noah Dobson from getting more Norris Trophy love, the Islanders keep allowing him to figure skate around their offensive zone. It's been the same story every time these teams have met this year. At some point, someone needs to aggressively pressure him, because allowing him free rein in the o-zone is a disastrous decision.
SOCIAL MEDIA MOMENT OF THE GAME
The Jets were back in attendance! Unfortunately, their presence did not bring quite the same good luck as it did in recent playoffs. Let's just hope anyone attending for the first time (ahem, Breece Hall- see below) comes back for the playoffs!