3 Takeaways From Islanders’ Loss to Sharks in Return to Ice

After consecutive games were postponed because of a Covid-19 outbreak, the New York Islanders returned to action on Thursday night, losing to the San Jose Sharks, 2-1 in overtime, to earn their first point since Nov. 6. The Islanders have now lost nine consecutive games.

Related: Islanders Weekly: Questions Remain Despite Good News

The Sharks exploited the Islanders’ weaknesses by limiting their offense and maintaining pressure on net throughout the game. At the same time, the Isles showed signs of improvement, and the game was a reminder that they are more than capable of putting together a winning streak.

Sorokin Continues To Impress

Ilya Sorokin continues to keep the Islanders in games and cover up the defense’s mistakes. The Sharks got 35 shots on the net, and Sorokin made 33 saves, singlehandedly keeping the game close. Moreover, six of his 33 saves came on the power play when the momentum was clearly with the Sharks, who maintained possession and managed to find effective shots on net. 

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

It was another game when the Islanders failed to generate offense, and the defense left open ice in the defensive zone, so the goaltending stepped up. Along with Semyon Varlamov, the Islanders’ goaltending duo has carried the team this season.

The Islanders will eventually snap out of their losing streak, and there is optimism that the wins will come sooner rather than later. However, that hope rests with the goaltending, particularly Sorokin, who is emerging as one of the league’s best young netminders.

Islanders Defensemen Were Noticeably Faster

Two talented defensive pairings played great in the neutral zone and defensive zone throughout the game, especially after the first period. Whether it was Mario Ferarro and Erik Karlsson, who scored the overtime-winning goal for the Sharks, or Adam Pelech and Noah Dobson for the Islanders, both teams proved that they can cut off angles to the net and block shooting lanes or quick shots.

Noah Dobson New York Islanders
Noah Dobson led the Islanders with four blocked shots in the game. Noah Dobson, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The bright spot for the Islanders was the speed from their defensemen, with some of the younger blueliners like Sebastian Aho and Grant Hutton playing in the absence of Zdeno Chara, who is still on the Covid-19 protocol list. They made mistakes at times and allowed the Sharks forwards to get off quick shots, but for the most part, the Islanders’ defense is a hopeful sign for the rest of the season.

Barzal & Shots On Goal

For the first time at UBS Arena, the Islanders held a lead, and it came 1:04 into the game. Mathew Barzal scored the first and only goal for his team and did so with an aggressive shot, top shelf, on the rush. 

The goal was a reminder that Barzal can carry the Islanders’ offense and find the back of the net. He can also find more quick shots in the offensive zone, especially carrying the puck past the blue line when there is minimal defense from the opponent. Unfortunately, the offensive success ended there for the Islanders, and the forwards never established a scoring presence afterward.

Mathew Barzal New York Islanders
Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Islanders forwards created a few scoring opportunities, and their defensemen took shots from the point. Pelech led the defense with three shots on goal, while Zach Parise, who has yet to score this season, managed three shots on goal, the most among Islanders forwards. However, the team was outshot 35-25 and have been outshot in 11 of 18 games this season. Against the Sharks, a scorer like Brock Nelson, who is out for the next few weeks with a lower-body injury, was sorely missed as the offense continued to struggle and cost the team a victory. 

What The Islanders Should Takeaway For the Upcoming Games?

The Islanders again came up short and lost at home but will eagerly take the point after forcing overtime, primarily thanks to Sorokin and the defense stepping up. However, if they hope to make up ground in the competitive Metropolitan Divison, they will need to start piling on the wins. An overtime loss helps but not nearly enough.

The Islanders next face the Detroit Red Wings and then the Chicago Blackhawks on back-to-back nights. Like the Sharks, both teams have proven to be difficult opponents; however, the Islanders can defeat both teams and have the pieces in place to start a winning streak.

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