In Thursday’s season opener, the New York Islanders had to use their special teams often. The power play earned three opportunities, going one-for-three, scoring the only goal for New York. Their penalty kill was a perfect five-for-five on the night.
Although the power-play personnel consisted of goal-scoring threats like Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, and Kyle Palmieri, to name a few, the inability to stay out of the penalty box against the Florida Panthers impacted the playing time for many of these scorers and other Islanders.
The New York Islanders ran Jean-Gabriel Pageau with Zach Parise and Josh Bailey with Casey Cizikas as their shorthanded forward pairings, not the top goal-scoring threats. Not every team in the NHL goes that route, but usually, it’s bottom-six, shot-blocking players.
The Panthers use their top centerman Aleksander Barkov on their second penalty-kill unit, but what Florida does is not a common theme around the NHL.
The second period extremely limited playing time for New York Islander goal scorers, as they found themselves shorthanded three times, for a total of six minutes.
That means when the New York Islanders are killing penalties, those offensive players listed above are sitting on the bench.
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Despite the perfect penalty kill, those shorthanded minutes impacted New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert’s ability to use his players the way he would have liked.
“When you’re taking penalties like that, we took five, spent 10 minutes killing, it takes certain people out of the game a little bit and adds minutes to others that play both power play and penalty kill,” Lambert said.
Even after the penalties were killed, those grueling minutes affected five-on-five play.
There was one instance where Zach Parise did not go out for his shift with Mathew Barzal and Kyle Palmieri because he needed a shift off after a penalty kill, as Anders Lee double-shifted.
Of the five penalties the New York Islanders took on Thursday, three came in the second period, and one came in the third. The three in the second period were spread out, one coming at 3:22 of the second, one coming at 9:31 of the second, and the last of the period coming at 19:05.
After 16 shots in the first period, as the Islanders took it to Florida despite no goals, they only notched five shots in the second, primarily due to being on the kill.
For a team that does not have the most potent offense in the NHL, five shots in a period will not help the offensive situation.
Mathew Barzal, despite playing 19:07 in the opener, only played 6:01 in the second period. Kyle Palmieri only played 4:58, and Anders Lee played 3:57 in the middle frame.
A player like Kieffer Bellows, who is looking to cement himself as a regular in the New York Islanders lineup, was held to just 7:16 minutes of action back on Thursday and only 2:13 in the middle frame.
Despite getting power-play minutes in the preseason, Bellows did not get an opportunity on Thursday, nor did he play while the Islanders were shorthanded.
Bellows’ lack of minutes created speculation that Lane Lambert had benched him for poor play, something that former Islanders head coach Barry Trotz often did to the younger players in the lineup like Bellows, but often Oliver Wahlstrom.
At Saturday’s morning skate, Kieffer Bellows was on the ice before practice and remained on afterward, which backed up the speculation.
But when Lambert addressed the media, I asked him if Bellows had done something wrong in the game, which led to his lack of minutes in the second and third periods.
“I think there was just a lot of special teams in the second and third period, and that’s what I said after the game. It took us out of our flow,” Lambert said following Saturday’s morning skate. “Some people played maybe more than we wanted them to, and others didn’t get enough plays time.”
It appears that Kieffer Bellows will be out of the lineup in favor of a “healthy” Oliver Wahlstrom Saturday night. Had Bellows had more minutes to make an impact, maybe that changes the lineup for Saturday.