Islanders Can’t Let Recent Skid Define Them

Everything seemed to be going great on Long Island with their 17-game point streak, but the New York Islanders just finished up a west coast road trip to California, where they lost all three games. 

It started on Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks, where the Islanders fell in overtime on a goal from Logan Couture. They basically didn’t show up to their game against the Anaheim Ducks, getting shutout for the first time this year, then eventually falling to the dreadful Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

“It’s a dry patch that you have to work through as a group and stay positive,” said head coach Barry Trotz. “The guys put in a way better effort than they did in Anaheim. I can tell you that. The scores doesn’t indicate that, but we did”.


Lack of Production from First Line

While Mathew Barzal has had one of his best seasons in the NHL so far, neither of his linemates in Jordan Eberle or Anders Lee have done much to help him this year. 

Eberle, who missed time this season with an injury, has yet to score a goal and has just two points since returning to the lineup. For Lee, he has just not been able to find the back of the net. For a guy that has led the team in scoring each of the past two seasons, Lee has gone 11 straight games without a goal and doesn’t have any of his five goals on the man-advantage. 

Mikko Koskinen Anders Lee
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen corrals the puck in front of New York Islanders left wing Anders Lee (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Late in the game against the Kings, head coach Barry Trotz shuffled his lines and went with Lee, Brock Nelson and Eberle, which was his top line last year. However, it didn’t come out too much, as New York scored just a first period goal from Brassard in a 3-1 loss.

Poor Goaltending

It took the Islanders nearly a quarter of the season to start getting poor goaltending, but Semyon Varlamov has not been sharp this month. At one point this season was in the top-five in goals against average and save percentage, but since then, he has allowed 15 goals in his last four starts. 

Semyon Varlamov New York Islanders
Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Islanders had been rotating goaltenders every game, and despite Varlamov struggling in November, Trotz has continued to run him out there every other game. Greiss has been watching with his 2.15 goals against average and .930 save percentage. 

Switching to Greiss doesn’t mean the two can’t each start 41 games, as they can ride Varlamov when he gets hot again. However, the Islanders can’t expect to win giving up four goals a game, which Varlamov has been doing regularly.

Power Play Struggles

A big reason for the struggles on the man advantage has been Eberle and Lee’s inability to score. With that being said, the Islanders have eight other players on their two power-play units and are struggling to hit the net with their shots. 

Jordan Eberle
Jordan Eberle (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Islanders’ hardest shot comes from Ryan Pulock, but it seems like every other shot goes wide. Teams have started to attack the Islanders, forcing them to make quick decisions leading to turnovers. 

They also are without Nick Leddy, who missed Wednesday’s game with an injury. He is the quarterback of the power play and without him, the Islanders struggle to enter the zone and set up their power play.

What’s to Come

The Islanders have a chance to forget about this road trip when they come home for a rare time Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. New York’s heavy home schedule at the beginning of the season has taken a turn, as the Islanders will play 10 of 13 away from Long Island. 

Fortunately, the Islanders were able to bank a lot of early-season points. They also have many games in hand on various teams in their conference, but they will need to win those matches to make them count. 

Look for the Islanders to shake up the lines after the Thanksgiving break with practice on Friday and come out with a strong performance at home.