There’s very little going right for the New York Islanders lately, as a lack of consistent scoring, subpar goaltending and a tendency to break down late in games have all dragged out their current six-game losing streak.
However, if there’s one aspect that’s compounding all of those other issues, it’s been the Islanders’ undisciplined play.
Simply put, penalties are killing the Islanders.
“We take just way too many penalties at the wrong time,” Bo Horvat said following the Islanders overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night. “We can’t put ourselves in those situations. At the end of the day, it costs us.”
Bad penalties spoiled what was an emotional homecoming for Horvat in Vancouver.
After Horvat pushed the team’s lead to 3-1 in the second period, the Islanders gave the Canucks back a goal when Brock Boeser scored on the man advantage to follow J.T. Miller’s power-play goal earlier in the frame.
Noah Dobson was the one whose interference penalty led to the goal by Boeser, and that wasn’t the only time he put the Islanders on the kill in Vancouver, either.
In the third, Dobson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau were each assessed a minor penalty on the same play, putting the Islanders into a five-on-three situation against a Canucks power play that ranks third in the league.
The Islanders nearly survived the two penalties but couldn’t hold on long enough. With 15 seconds remaining on the kill, Filip Hronek blasted a missle of a slap shot at 107.9 mph from the point to tie the score at three with 12 and a half minutes to play in regulation.
“You can’t take two penalties on the same play,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “I’m sorry, it just can’t happen. They have too good of a power play to do that.”
The loss to the Canucks is only the most recent example of the Islanders shooting themselves in the foot with penalties.
During this recent stretch, in which the Islanders have lost seven out of their last eight games, they’ve given up six power-play goals on 19 shorthanded chances for a penalty-kill percentage of 68%.
Through 15 games this season, the Islanders penalty kill ranks 29th in the NHL at 71.2%. That’s a severe decline from last season when they killed off 82.2% of penalties.
“They’re coming off mistakes when we get put in a bad position,” Dobson said. “We have to minimize those mistakes because every one of them is ending up in the back of our net right now.”
When they’re shorthanded, the Islanders aren’t attacking the puck or the puck carrier. It seems that once they give up one power-play goal, they expect to allow another.
“I thought we were too passive,” Lambert said after the loss on Wednesday. “I think when you are getting scored on, you start to sit back, and that’s what happened a little bit with that.”
The Islanders’ lack of aggressiveness while shorthanded is hanging their goalies out to dry.
According to Natural Stat Trick, Ilya Sorokin has allowed 14 goals on 60 shorthanded shots against. That’s a save percentage of .767. When the Islanders are down a man, he has an expected goals against of six and a goals saved above average of -3.02.
Goalies are always a team’s best penalty killer. When they’re not meeting the standard, the team has no chance of survival.
So, to put it simply once again, penalties are killing the Islanders right now.
Soon enough, they’re going to kill their season.