The seemingly never-ending road stretch for the New York Islanders has finally come to an end. Tuesday night’s game in South Florida against the Florida Panthers was the last of 13 games that the Islanders had to play on the road while they anxiously waited for the finishing touches to be put on their brand new arena. All signs are pointing towards it being worth the wait, because UBS Arena looks objectively, incredible.
Islanders’ Early Season Woes
Sticking to the hockey aspect of it though, the Islanders desperately needed this road trip to end. After Tuesday’s game against Florida, the Islanders are in the midst of a four-game losing streak and have been outscored 19-4 in the process. This includes a 4-0 shutout vs. the New Jersey Devils and two losses in Semyon Varlamov’s first two starts of the season. It is apparent that this team has issues within the roster, namely on the defensive side. The homecoming signing of Zdeno Chara was a feel-good move at the time but is proving to be less fruitful than what they’d hoped for.
At 44 years old, Chara just cannot keep up with the speed of the wings in today’s NHL. The most concerning part about this is Chara is averaging just over 18 minutes of ice-time according to hockey-reference.com. Chara is not the only issue defensively. Outside of Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech, this team lacks serious depth on defense. So much so, that Barry Trotz has even been forced to split up that elite defensive pairing to alleviate some of the struggles. Trotz was asked about the defensive struggles after the 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild, where he had an interesting quote.
“We seem to, when we do give them up, we give them up, I’ll say in bulk form, we don’t just get one, we get two or three. Cut that out a little bit. A lot of times, it’s not necessarily (on) the group. There’s been more of an individual decision-making, one decision, two decisions, three decisions that are the wrong decision. So we gotta correct that on a few guys.”from (‘Barry Trotz looking to ‘correct’ Islanders’ costly decision-making’, New York Post, 11/9/21)
Barry Trotz’s whole coaching philosophy is predicated on smart and sound defensive play. That’s how the Islanders found success just last season. Do your job defensively, and wait for the other team to make a mistake and capitalize. The issue this season has been that the defense has not been able to mask the offensive shortcomings, which are byproducts of Trotz’s system.
The lack of goal scoring is a huge problem for the Isles. Many believed that the return of Anders Lee would bring new life into a pretty average attack, but it has not made a very notable impact. In 11 games played, Lee has recorded four points that have all come in the form of goals, two of which came against Minnesota last week. Guys like Kyle Palmeri and Zach Parise have struggled to produce goals this season. Palmeri finally got his first of the season in Tuesday’s blowout 6-1 loss to the Panthers. Parise has been getting a lot of praise for his play early this season, which is warranted. However, at some point, he needs to start producing. Trotz is still experimenting with different line combinations, mostly to find a proper fit for Josh Bailey. Bailey has six points this season, but which wingers he gets stuck with seem to suffer.
Turning The Page
Enough with pointing out what is wrong with this team and start looking towards the future. Finally being able to play in front of a home crowd will undoubtedly be a breath of fresh air for this team. They have a four-game home stint coming up stretching from November 20th-26th. NHL road trips can be extremely grueling, and a 13-game road trip is unprecedented in the NHL. Not having to constantly travel will allow this team some time to rest and recover and work on the things that snake-bitten them to this point in the year. It is still very early in the NHL season and the Islanders have games in hand compared to the majority of the NHL. There is plenty of time for them to turn things around. These first four games at home will really tell us a lot of the DNA makeup of the 2021-22 Islanders.
I am 24 years old, born and raised in South Florida. I cover the New York Islanders for THW but I also follow football, basketball, baseball, and golf. I have been around sports my entire life, whether it be playing or watching. When I am not watching sports, I like to spend my free time playing golf and fishing. I am a very passionate sports fan and I discovered that writing gives me an outlet to voice my thoughts and opinions on the things I am most passionate about. About five years ago, I started to follow the NHL during the Stanley Cup Playoffs and ever since then, I have been hooked.