The New York Islanders were looking to end their five-game homestand on a high note but were handed their fourth loss in five games. They lost to the Boston Bruins 4-1 where they allowed two goals in the second and third periods in a lopsided defeat.
The Islanders entered the homestand with high hopes and a 12-6 record at UBS Arena. However, they went 1-2-2 in the five games and now have a 23-19-4 record, putting them in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division. The recent loss doesn’t put their season in jeopardy but it does make the rest of the year an uphill battle. They aren’t playing like a playoff team and are struggling in multiple facets of the game, making a turnaround seem unlikely.
Islanders Power Play Struggles
The Islanders’ power play unit was awful and arguably a liability, preventing the team from building momentum despite having an extra skater on the ice. They had six opportunities against the Bruins but failed to score. The power play hit its low point of the season as the Islanders have only scored three times in their last 51 chances.
The contrast between the Islanders’ and Bruins’ power plays was night and day. The Bruins went 1-4 on the man advantage and their one goal came with great puck movement and quick passes, allowing Brad Marchand to find the back of the net. They had a plan and clear direction on the power play but the Islanders were the opposite, with little direction and control of possession, making it a glaring weakness on the roster.
Varlamov Struggles in the Net
Semyon Varlamov received the rare start in place of Ilya Sorokin, who received a much-needed night off. It was his first start since the Jan. 6 loss to the Calgary Flames and he was looking to bounce back from a performance where he allowed four goals on only 21 shots. Unfortunately, Varlamov had another game to forget as he struggled against the Bruins.
He only saved 20 of the 24 shots he faced. Moreover, Varlamov was caught out of position multiple times, resulting in easy goals for the Bruins. It was another tough night for him and with Sorokin playing at a Vezina Trophy level, it’s unclear when Varlamov will receive his next start.
Dufour’s NHL Debut
The Islanders called up William Dufour, one of their top prospects, for the game against the Bruins and he looked poised to have a promising game. He played on the same line as Mathew Barzal, allowing him to find open shots in the offensive zone and take advantage of his shooting ability on the wing.
Dufour looked promising to start the game with 3:12 of ice time in the first period. However, after the first period, he was a non-factor and a defensive liability. The Bruins scored both their second period goals when he was on the ice and after Derek Forbort’s goal, which put the Islanders behind 2-1, he was benched. Dufour made his mark in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and was a great scorer in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Bridgeport Islanders. However, in the NHL, he’ll need to improve defensively and head coach Lane Lambert sent that message early, benching him in his first game.
By the end of the game, Dufour only had 6:48 of ice time and only one hit. It was an uneventful night for the Islanders’ promising prospect and a debut that he’ll want to forget. While Aatu Raty, another top prospect, scored in his debut in a 5-1 Dec. 23 win over the Florida Panthers and showed that he is ready for the NHL, Dufour showed that he still has a lot to work on.
One of the few bright spots in the Islanders’ loss was Zach Parise’s goal in the first period. Defenseman Sebastian Aho controlled the puck in the offensive zone and found an open Parise skating to the net. With a quick shot, he scored to give the Islanders their first and only goal of the game.
With the goal, Parise has 13 on the season, third-most on the Islanders behind only Brock Nelson and Anders Lee, who both have 15 goals. Despite being the oldest player on the team at 38 years old, Parise has been one of their most valuable forwards. He continues to find the back of the net and provide the Islanders with a much-needed scoring presence.
Other Takeaways From the Islanders’ Loss
- The Bruins beat the Islanders from the point as defensemen Forbort and Charlie McAvoy found the back of the net for two of the four goals in the win.
- With the assist, Aho scored his 10th point of the season. He’s established himself as a regular on the defense this year but more importantly, has made his mark as a two-way player, playing a pivotal role in the offense.
What’s Next for the Islanders
The Islanders face the Buffalo Sabres in the second game of the back-to-back. The Sabres, who are looking to bounce back after an overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, trail the Islanders in the standings but have one of the best offenses in the league, averaging 3.77 goals per game. Afterward, they face the Carolina Hurricanes and the Toronto Maple Leafs, two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
The five-game homestand was supposed to allow the Islanders to get their season back on track. Instead, they fell further in the standings and with a 23-19-4 record, are in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division. The season is slowly slipping away from the Islanders and they need to turn things around quickly to avoid another disappointing year.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink writes about the NHL at large, looking at general topics from potential cities for NHL relocation to arena traditions throughout the league. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.