The New York Islanders enter their contest against the Calgary Flames with a 7-5-0 record. On one side, the penalty kill has been a saving grace, a reason for the over .500 record. The power play, however, has been the Achilles’ heel.
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NYI Hockey Now caught up with players from both special team units to discuss their perspectives:
It was a historic start for the New York Islanders’ penalty kill through the first eight games of the season. With the help of strong netminding, the Islanders did not allow a single power-play goal against, denying 28 of 28 opportunities that came their way.
They have cooled off a bit, allowing a power-play goal in each of the last four contests (one a 5-on-3). Despite that, the Islanders with the third-best penalty kill in the NHL at 90.48 percent, having killed off 38 of 42.
“I think it’s all about our structure,” Alexander Romanov told NYI Hockey Now. “Brave guys who can block all the shots, so it’s not a problem for us. We plan pretty well. I think we play an aggressive PK, and it’s all about structure.”
The Islanders’ shorthanded units have blocked 42 shots this season, with Romanov leading the way with eight.
“Don’t be scared. Don’t be scared to block it. Find the lane and just stay there.”
There are times when we have seen the penalty kill be ultra-aggressive and other times when the defense is more compact, especially in the slot. New York Islanders forward Zach Parise told NYI Hockey Now that there is not one set penalty kill structure. It’s all about the opponent.
“I think it depends on who we’re playing against, really. We do a good job of seeing who we’re up against, finding the shooter, and trying to take the lane away the best we can,” Parise said. “We have a couple different ways that we do it. And again, it just depends on who we’re playing. And right now we’re, we’re doing a good job of adjusting to who it is and executing.”
The Islanders, under Lane Lambert, are aggressive in all facets of their game. The penalty kill, for the most part, has been more aggressive. They have scored one shorthanded goal via Zach Parise.
“Power play guys don’t want to back check. Let’s just call it what it is. They don’t want to back check, so if you get that opportunity, you can get a couple of quick steps,” Parise said. “That being said, you don’t want to cheat for it…As a power play guy, also, you know how hard it is when someone’s trying to disrupt you up ice rather than just sitting back and kind of letting you go.
“I think we’re doing a good job of disrupting their flow and the momentum on their break-ins, and that just kind of leads into getting a turnover in our own zone.”
“It’s a lot of reading,” Jean-Gabriel Pageau said. “You know, we have a good plan. Against every team, every game. There’s always good power plays. There’s good players in this league. That that will that they will create. It’s almost what you’re going to give them and, and live with, and I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job of respecting our rules.”
As for why Lambert believed that he could have his penalty kill units play a bit more aggressive than they have in the past:
“Well, I think we’ve been together a number of them for a few years now. So everybody reads off everybody pretty well. And it leads into, you know, their understanding of that and potentially being a little more aggressive at certain times. But again, we’re aggressive when we can be, and then we have to be positional when we can’t.”
The New York Islanders’ power play has not had much success this season. They have just five goals on 37 chances for a 13.5 percent power play, which ranks 29th in the NHL.
All five goals have come from the top power-play unit, as Anders Lee has three, with Brock Nelson and Noah Dobson scoring one each. One of Anders Lee’s power-play tallies came on a five-on-three advantage against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise.
“We’re getting some looks. There’s no question we’re generating opportunities,” Lambert said. “The key is just gaining momentum off the power-play, getting opportunities, and getting zone time. We’ve looked at it. We’re clearly working on it. And we’ll move forward.”
The power play has scored five times but sits with an Expected Goals For of 7.82. If the Islanders were to have eight power-play goals on the season, that would bring their percentage up to a respectable 23.5 percent. Speaking with the players, there’s not just one thing going wrong on a given night.
“I think it’s always something different,” Parise said. “One game, it’s the shots not getting through. One game, our entry isn’t great. Sometimes puck recovery can be better. It’s always to try to be good in all those different areas. Quick puck movement always helps. It’s hard to say one thing has been bad because I don’t think it’s really just been one thing.”
Over this past three-game stretch, the Islanders’ power play has scored twice on nine opportunities. They also allowed their first shorthanded goal of the season, which came against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.
Noah Dobson, who operates on the point on the top power-play unit, had this to say about how things have gone as of late:
“I mean, you look at the last three games. Two of the three games, we scored big goals. Last game, we gave up one, but I think we’ve had lots of chances, and they haven’t gone in, but just staying with it, not getting impatient, making sure we’re putting puck to the net still, and doing our jobs. I think it’s just more important, [to] not change the way we’re going, [but] to just make tweaks and get pucks to the net.”
“It’s something that we work on every day and that we’ll keep working on,” Pageau said. “Sometimes it’s just the little details or little parts of execution that doesn’t work, and that can be something that’s easily fixed. It takes a lot of commitment, and the guys want the power play to be better, so I’m not too worried about that.”