The New York Islanders earned a point in a night of milestones against the San Jose Sharks. Zdeno Chara broke the record for the most games played by a defenseman, passing Chris Chelios, and Zach Parise scored his 400th career goal. Unfortunately, the Islanders still lost 4-3 in a shootout to the Sharks and only have 19 wins in their 47 games played this season.
The Islanders are in the middle of a five-game road trip and were coming off a 5-2 win over the Seattle Kraken. While the Islanders still earned a point and now have a four-game point streak, the team was eager to defeat a Sharks team that was struggling, winning only one of their last 10 games entering the matchup.
Nelson & Barzal
The Islanders scored the first goal of the game for the second consecutive game with veteran forward Brock Nelson redirecting a shot from the point into the back of the net. The goal was Nelson’s fourth in as many games and his 19th of the season, leading the team in the category. While the goal against the Sharks was a redirected puck that found the back of the net, the 30-year-old forward has proven throughout this season that he can create scoring chances in the offensive zone and more importantly, capitalize on pucks near the net.
To tie the game, Mathew Barzal carried the puck into the offensive zone and created space on the odd-man rush to catch the Sharks and their goaltender James Reimer out of position. Barzal found defenseman Adam Pelech at the point with an open shot that helped the Islanders tie the game and three and ultimately force overtime.
The Islanders’ forward unit has struggled this season, particularly when creating an offensive zone presence. One of the most effective ways for the Islanders to generate offense is for Barzal to carry the puck into the offensive zone as he draws defensemen and opens up the ice for the rest of the shift, and finding Pelech was only another example of this skillset the 24-year-old forward possesses.
Pelech & Offense from the Point
The Islanders typically don’t receive offensive production from their defensive unit. Whether it’s effectively entering the puck into the offensive zone or creating scoring chances from the point, the Islanders defensemen have failed to open up the offense and help out the forwards. However, in a game where the team generated 47 shots on goal, the defensemen were directly responsible for all three goals, highlighted by Pelech’s game-tying blast from the point in the second period.
Pelech isn’t known for his shot but with Reimer out of position, found his third goal of the season. Along with Pelech, the Islanders’ first goal of the game was courtesy of a Scott Mayfield shot from the point that was redirected by Nelson. Mayfield earned his second assist in as many games and is continuing to set up forwards with quick chances near the net with shots through traffic and great bounces.
While Parise scored the milestone goal in the second period, the goal was created by Sebastian Aho, who has become a regular in the defensive unit, replacing Andy Greene on the left side. Aho carried the puck in the offensive zone and sent a quick centering pass to Parise for a quick shot on the net and the veteran’s seventh goal of the season. The Islanders’ younger defensemen have struggled on the defensive end of the ice, but they have opened up the offense and provided speed to the lineup, allowing the team to create more scoring chances in the offensive zone.
Sorokin Starts Again
Ilya Sorokin is taking on a heavy workload this season, especially since the return from the All-Star break. With eight starts in a row and 34 starts on the season, it’s clear that he is the starting goaltender but is being overwhelmed. The recent game against the Sharks saw the 26-year-old allow three goals in the first two periods of play before stepping up and blanking the opponent’s shots in the third period.
Many of the goals allowed were redirected pucks that weren’t detected off the initial shot by Sorokin and it’s clear that he isn’t as sharp compared to earlier in the season. He has allowed three goals or more in five of his last eight starts and is allowing shots to find the back of the net that he would generally save with ease. Semyon Varlamov wasn’t able to start for the Islanders after testing positive for COVID-19, but now that the veteran is back in the lineup, the anticipation is that he will start one of the next two games and hopefully take some pressure off the young starting goaltender.
Other Notes from the Islanders’ Loss
The Islanders generated 47 shots on the net in the game but only managed three goals against the Sharks. This was a game that the Islanders looked like they won multiple times, but the Sharks goaltender Reimer put together one of the best performances of his career with 44 saves in the win.
The next two games on the Islanders’ schedule are against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks on back-to-back nights. Unlike the Kraken or the Sharks, the upcoming opponents are two teams fighting for playoff position and will be tough matchups for the Islanders, who need every point to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink has written for multiple sports blogs and platforms covering the NHL, NFL, MLB, and college sports. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.