4 Takeaways From Islanders 3-2 Loss to Panthers – 10/23/22

The New York Islanders lost their second game in as many days and with another tough defeat nonetheless. Suddenly, they are on the ropes and watching a promising season slowly slip away. The 3-2 defeat to the Florida Panthers was the second loss in the Florida road trip, the third loss in a row, and most importantly, gives them a 2-4 record through six games.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Islanders’ 5-3 Loss to Lightning

The Islanders continued to show a lot of the similar weaknesses that cost them the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, which they lost 5-3. They had a lot of miscues as well as consequential mistakes that cost them goals, and once again, they played from behind for most of the game. However, the loss to the Panthers adds to an already rough start to the season for the Islanders and raises concerns about whether this team can compete in the Eastern Conference.

Islanders’ Slow Start Costs Them

The Islanders once again allowed an early goal and were playing from behind. The Panthers took advantage of a tired roster and scored within the first 40 seconds of the game with forward Anton Lundell stealing the puck near the net and catching goaltender Semyon Varlamov by surprise. The Islanders, already trailing needed to settle the game down but instead took a penalty less than two minutes later.

The Islanders are at their best when they are playing with the lead and not chasing the game. Unfortunately, by the time they found their footing against the Panthers, they were trailing 2-0. They allowed the second goal of the first period in a rough sequence with Noah Dobson taking a puck to face, allowing Eetu Luostarinen to find a second chance shot and find the back of the net. The Islanders playing on a back-to-back meant they would be tired and needed a few minutes to acclimate against a great team like the Panthers and their opponent took advantage jumping out to a 2-0 lead and eventually closing out a 3-2 win.

Nelson & Pageau Struggling Offensively

Brock Nelson led the Islanders with 37 goals last season and through six games, it looks like last year’s success was more of an anomaly than the start of something special. He has six assists but has yet to find the back of the net this season. Furthermore, he has failed to find open ice in the offensive zone, leaving the Islanders with a depleted offense to start the season.

Brock Nelson New York Islanders
Brock Nelson, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Likewise, the Islanders’ third-line center Jean-Gabriel Pageau has been invisible in the offensive zone. While Nelson has been one of the leaders in assists, establishing himself as a reliable puck distributor, Pageau has only registered two assists and has yet to find the back of the net. He’s stepped up in other facets of the game, notably on the defensive end of the ice but offensively has been a non-factor.

The Islanders’ forward unit in previous seasons was carried by its depth with four lines allowing them to reach the Stanley Cup Semifinal in 2020 and 2021. However, once some players decline, deal with injuries, or underachieve, that depth is non-existent. This season, they have a roster that is relying on the depth forwards to step up but through the first few games, specifically the recent back-to-back, they have yet to see that happen.

Anders Lee Finding His Spot

The bright spot from the recent loss was the continued strong play and reliable scoring the Islanders have received from Anders Lee. The captain scored both of the team’s goals, both of which came on the power play, and was one of the key players that made the game close.

Anders Lee New York Islanders
Anders Lee, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Lee knows where he can exploit opposing defenses as he hangs out near the crease and waits for the puck to find him. He scored the only Islanders’ goal in the 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils by poking the puck near the net and against the Panthers, his goals came from a redirected shot and from a loose puck near the net. Lee can consistently give the Islanders the offensive production they need, but in a season where the forward unit has otherwise struggled, they will need him to continue to step up in the offensive zone, specifically in the slot and near the crease.

Islanders’ Penalty Kill Continues to Step Up

The Islanders killed four penalties against the Panthers and have yet to allow a power play goal on the season. With the four successful penalty kills, they set the franchise record for the most successful kills to start the season, going 22 for 22.

The Islanders’ penalty kill has been an unusual strength but one that isn’t surprising considering the players they have on the roster. The defensemen, led by Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock, can constantly create turnovers and eliminate scoring chances while the forwards, notably Pageau and Casey Cizikas, can effectively move the puck out of the defensive zone and occasionally pressure the opposing team with a quick rush to the net.

Casey Cizikas New York Islanders
Casey Cizikas, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

To start the season, the Islanders stepping up in short-handed situations has benefitted them. Unfortunately, in the Florida road trip, it didn’t allow them to build momentum as they allowed multiple goals throughout the two games shortly after killing a penalty, including the Panthers’ game-winning goal.

Other Takeaways From Islanders Loss

  • Mathew Barzal has yet to find the back of the net this season but in the recent loss, he was the primary reason the Islanders scored both their goals. On the power play, he managed to get two good shots on the net with Lee taking advantage.
  • Varlamov saved 29 of the 32 shots he faced. While he couldn’t lead the Islanders to a victory, he put together a strong performance and helped make the game close, notably holding the Panthers to one goal in the final 40 minutes of play.
  • Dobson added another assist in the game and leads the defensive unit with five points on the season off of two goals and three assists. After a breakout year, the Islanders anticipated that Dobson would take another step forward and six games into the season he’s picking up right where he left off from the previous season.

What’s Next for the Islanders

The Islanders are in the middle of a tough schedule that can easily derail their season. The next game is against the New York Rangers, a team that reached the Eastern Conference Final last season and returns a roster that might be even better, making them one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

Despite the optimism entering the season, the Rangers are desperate to win their upcoming game. They are coming off two rough losses in a row and while they face the Colorado Avalanche ahead of their game against the Islanders, they are eager to beat up on their New York rival.

The Islanders meanwhile are playing arguably one of their most important games to start the season. With the team hoping to snap a three-game losing streak and get back on track, a win is suddenly critical as they look to bounce back from a disappointing season and reach the playoffs.

Sign up for our regular 'Islanders Newsletter' for all the latest.