Islanders 3 Takeaways From 6-3 Loss to Sabres – 2/15/22

The New York Islanders traveled to Buffalo to face the Sabres, desperate for a win to cap off their four-game road trip. After back-to-back losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, the Islanders needed to rebound with a statement victory to put their season and playoff hopes back on track. Instead, the team lost 6-3 to the Sabres and only have 17 wins in their 43 games played this season.

Related: Islanders Takeaways From Western Canada Road Trip

The Islanders arguably played their worst game of the season, outplayed by a Sabres team that only won 15 of their 47 games entering the Tuesday night matchup. Some of the issues in the Islanders’ performance continue to be underlying concerns for a team desperate to turn around their season. Moreover, the issues might force general manager Lou Lamoriello and the front office to become sellers at the trade deadline in March, trading away some key contributors on the roster.

Islanders’ Defense Struggles

One of the surprising pregame decisions for head coach Barry Trotz was to not start veteran defenseman Andy Greene. While Greene might have needed the night off, and the 38-year-old isn’t a great skater, he provides discipline and rarely makes mistakes near the net. Instead, the Islanders continued to play 44-year-old veteran Zdeno Chara while moving Sebastian Aho into the lineup to give the unit a different look.

Andy Greene New York Islanders
Andy Greene was a healthy scratch against the Buffalo Sabres (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While Aho provided speed on the blue line and effectively moved the puck into the offensive zone, leading to the Islanders’ opening goal of the game, Chara continued to slow the team down in all three zones. Notably, Chara was on the ice for the Sabres’ fourth goal when Dylan Cozens effectively carried the puck into the offensive zone and allowed Victor Olofsson to find an open shot near the net.

The Islanders’ defense struggled against the Sabres and constantly allowed scoring chances and quick shots on the goal. Moreover, they allowed 41 shots on goal, only the sixth time all season the defense has allowed over 40 shots in a game. The defense has carried the team all season, but the unit has fallen apart recently, allowing five goals or more in consecutive games and three goals or more in every game since returning from the All-Star break.

Sorokin’s Poor Performance

Ilya Sorokin started his fourth consecutive game since the All-Star break and made 35 saves, oftentimes keeping the Islanders in the game. Unfortunately, along with all the great saves against great scoring chances from the Sabres, he also allowed plenty of costly goals, shots that the 26-year-old goaltender would normally save with ease.

Ilya Sorokin New York Islanders
Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With Semyon Varlamov out for the upcoming game after testing positive for COVID-19, Sorokin is going to remain the starter and be asked to step up. Unfortunately, Sorokin has struggled since the break, and the recent game against the Sabres might have been his worst in the recent stretch; the fourth goal was a shot that slipped past his glove and into the back of the net. The Islanders’ goaltending duo has been a strength all season, and for the team to turn their season around and make a push for the playoffs, the unit can’t afford to fall apart, especially with the surplus of games ahead.

Beauvillier & Palmieri

Two of the bright spots for the Islanders were on the same shift, with Anthony Beauvillier and Kyle Palmieri creating scoring chances alongside Brock Nelson. Beauvillier has been one of the Islanders’ best forwards since the break, scoring points in three of four games, including the only goal in the 3-1 loss to the Oilers. The 24-year-old forward found Palmieri early on in the game for the team’s opening goal with a great centering pass on the odd-man rush and was a key part of the offensive success throughout.

Anthony Beauvillier New York Islanders
Anthony Beauvillier, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Palmieri, on the other hand, is having a rough season and entered the game against the Sabre with only one goal and six assists. In the game, however, he found the back of the net twice and was aggressively shooting the puck. The Islanders have struggled to find offensive production from the later lines and, most notably, from their 29-year-old forward, who was expected to play a pivotal role in the bottom-six. The game against the Sabres was a reminder that if the Islanders’ forward can find open shots on the net and, more importantly, take them, the goals will follow.

Other Notes from the Islanders’ 6-3 Loss

Islanders captain Anders Lee created pressure in the center of the offensive zone and with the team trailing throughout the game, he kept forcing the Sabres defense to step up. Lee had two points, with a goal and an assist, and remains a pivotal part of the Islanders’ offensive success, helping the team score three goals in the loss.

The Islanders’ next game is at UBS Arena on Thursday, Feb. 17, against the Boston Bruins. They defeated the Bruins earlier in the season 3-1, but the game will still test the team and be a tough one with the hope of ending a three-game losing streak and rebounding on the season.

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