The New York Islanders were far from their best on Thursday night as they allowed the New Jersey Devils to walk all over them. Credit to the New Jersey Devils, as they disallowed the Islanders any chance at playing their game and rarely had the puck on their stick. And when they did have the puck, irresponsible decisions, penalties in transition, and a lack of effort sank New York quickly.
Had netminder Ilya Sorokin not been on his game early, this one could have been over after the first 10 minutes.
Despite a back-to-back this weekend against two elite teams, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers, the New York Islanders practiced on Friday ahead of their flight.
It was a short thirty-minute practice, but one that was as intense as we had seen so far this season.
Head coach Lane Lambert and the coaching staff had the players doing 2-on-1 drills, 2-on-2 drills, and 3-on-2 drills before finishing off with grueling 3-on-3 battles below the offensive-zone face-off dots.
The players were physical. There were little to no smiles. The message was clear.
The Islanders did not work Thursday night, so they were to work Friday.
Following the morning skate, Lambert shared that they did not hold the practice to send a message. That message should have already been received immediately after the final horn sounded at UBS Arena.
“I think everybody’s attention was grabbed by the way we played,” Lambert said. “And so we were working on things that we needed to improve on.
As for why the New York Islanders played as badly as they did, the first-year bench boss was not going to play the excuse game like another team in New York did following their playoff loss…
“I’m not going to make any excuses. It’s unacceptable. If that’s the case, and it appears that you knot, we just weren’t ready to go. As good as we should have been. So [that] won’t happen again.
A handful of players were dreadful Thursday night, and Lane Lambert did not rule out the potential for changes to the lineup Saturday or at any point this weekend.
“We’re going to make some decisions today and see what happens,” Lambert said.
Unlike last season, the New York Islanders opened this season with four games at home. But after going 2-2-0 to start, the mini-round trip may be a positive.
“We talked about that a little bit this morning. I think it’s going to be good to go down there and, you know, get tested,” Lambert said. “Get away from home for a little bit.”
Islanders React to Loss
The New York Islanders were shocked and embarrassed when we spoke immediately after the loss. Although the players must quickly move on with challenging games on the horizon, that loss was still fresh in their minds.
“Obviously, disappointing effort last night. We didn’t deserve to win the game, and we didn’t,” New York Islanders forward Matt Martin said following Friday’s practice. “We know we needed to come into work today and reset. Got a big road trip. Got to find a way to win a couple of games.”
Although no Islander specifically said it, it seemed like they may have overlooked the New Jersey Devils Thursday, a team that has stumbled out of the gate.
“We met this morning and just talked about the importance of every game. It doesn’t matter that it was game four. They all count the same,” Martin said. “Bottom line, we didn’t come to work yesterday. We didn’t compete hard enough and didn’t play to our game well enough, and we paid for it. We reset today, but we had a good practice, and we’ll get ready for Tampa tomorrow.”
Forward Brock Nelson, who had a costly turnover that led directly to the New Jersey Devils’ second goal, the eventual game-winner, certainly spoke his mind.
“Last night was pretty pathetic. Today was just about working. Go out there and work hard.”
Defenseman Adam Pelech added that the high-intensity practice was definitely needed before hitting the road.
“Last night, we know it wasn’t good enough, and we need to come in prepared and better than we did in the first there. So I think the high-intensity practice today is just what we needed.”
Containing Devils Speed the Issue, How to Combat Speed Going Forward
The New York Islanders are not what one would call a speedy team. When they play their defensive style to a te, they can use their strong positioning and structure to slow teams down and trap them in their game.
But when the Islanders can’t get to their game, especially early, games like last night happen.
“It definitely was a fast-paced game. We didn’t have much time back there,” Pelech said. “And you know, credit to them. They came out flying. They played a great game, and we weren’t able to match that level, especially early. So I think that’s, you know, a lesson for us.”
As mentioned, the best way to counteract speed is for the Islanders to get to their game early.
“We just got to stick to our game, and I just don’t think we ever really got to our game yesterday,” Martin said. “We’re obviously a bigger group, play physical, and we didn’t do a good enough job getting pucks deep and slowing them down, making them come two-hundred feet, and they got some skilled players.”
“So we allowed them some open time and space, and they are going to make you pay, and we saw that a lot yesterday.”
Nelson spoke about the most significant issue that plagued the Islanders Thursday night, which is the same thing that is needed to stop fast teams from transitioning up the ice.
“I mean, every night there are different challenges. You see a lot of speed…so you got to find ways to kind of counteract that,” Nelson said. “We didn’t really get any forechecks going to kind of slow them down, and we made it too easy.”
“So when you play fast teams, you want to get in on the forecheck.”
Lane Lambert said the same thing.
“First of all, I didn’t think we established our forecheck very well,” Lambert said. “They broke out too quickly, too easily, and then that led to poor gaps, so just got to have tighter gaps, be in their face to slow down their speed, and we just didn’t do a good enough job of that last night.”
“We just weren’t sharp.”
The New Jersey Devils were not the team to struggle against, and if the New York Islanders do not come out strong against either opponent this weekend, we could see a similar result. Thursday night is in the past, and it’s about moving forward, but most importantly, learning that the effort they displayed Thursday night will not bring them much success against anyone.