The New York Islanders had arguably their worst performance of the season as they lost 7-4 to the St. Louis Blues, who entered the game on a four-game losing streak which included a 6-4 loss to the New York Rangers the night before. They were looking to defeat the Blues for the second time this season to sweep the season series but instead were outplayed in all three periods to earn their third loss in four games.
In the loss, the Islanders allowed seven goals for the first time this season. Moreover, it showed glaring concerns in all three units and in the team’s style of play that can become consequential as the season progresses. The Islanders are 16-11 and have played well this year, but the game against the Blues was a wake-up call.
Blues Odd-Man Rushes Gash Islanders
The first goal of the game was scored on a two-on-one rush where Josh Leivo found enough space to generate an open shot on the net. The Islanders, who were looking to start up the offense, turned the puck over in the neutral zone and created an easy scoring chance as a result. Likewise, the Blues found their second goal of the game on another odd-man rush where Will Bitten found an open Ivan Barbashev on a cross-ice pass to find the back of the net. Both goals were quick strikes that put the Islanders behind but left goaltender Ilya Sorokin in a tough spot as there wasn’t much he could do to stop either shot.
The goals allowed are part of the give-and-take of the Islanders’ style of play under coach Lane Lambert, which for the majority of the season has given them an advantage. The defensemen joining rushes, playing deeper in the offensive zone, and with a more aggressive mindset have spearheaded the offensive success. However, the consequences are scoring chances for the opposition and more shots on goal, especially following turnovers. The 7-4 loss against the Blues was a testament to how this style of play can backfire. While the Islanders will continue to play an aggressive style of hockey, there will be a handful of games where the team looks undisciplined and lost defensively, resulting in a surplus of goals allowed.
Islanders’ 3rd Period Woes
The Islanders, in one of the rare instances this season, fell apart in the third period. They allowed two goals 13 seconds apart, leaving UBS Arena stunned and the team trailing 5-1. The two goals put the game out of reach and while they have come back multiple times this season, including a 3-0 deficit to the Colorado Avalanche to win 5-4, rallying back from a four-goal deficit felt impossible in this game.
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The offense woke up and made the game close, as Josh Bailey found Zach Parise, who sniped a shot to the back of the net for a power play goal. Then, Matt Martin shot the puck from the blue line and Hudson Fasching redirected it into the net for his first goal of the season. Twenty-one seconds later, Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored a wraparound goal where he banked the puck into the net, which cut the Blues’ lead to only one goal. However, the goal-scoring surge was too little, too late as the comeback ended up falling short.
The Islanders allowed four goals in the third period with the two empty net goals, putting an exclamation point on a rough night. They have been a third period team all season, outscoring opponents 39-25. Unfortunately against the Blues, they unraveled in the final minutes, particularly in their own zone, and it cost them the game.
Thomas Greiss Bests Former Team
Thomas Greiss’s tenure with the Islanders isn’t a memorable one for the fans per se. After all, in five seasons with the team, he put together a .915 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.70 goals-against average (GAA) and for the most part was a backup. However, for Greiss, some of the most iconic moments of his career came with the Islanders, specifically as he helped them reach the Eastern Conference Final in the 2020 Edmonton Bubble before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Greiss is having a rough year as the Blues’ backup as he has a .907 SV% and a 3.57 GAA on only 237 shots. Additionally, since leaving the Islanders, he hasn’t been the same reliable backup, struggling in two seasons with the Detroit Red Wings before signing a one-year deal with the Blues in the offseason.
Against the Islanders, he stepped up and sealed the victory for his team. He allowed four goals but made 36 saves and prevented his former team from mounting a comeback. The Blues needed this performance from their backup considering starter Jordan Binnington has struggled this season and the team has blown multiple leads with instability in the net being a primary factor. Greiss wasn’t dominant but good enough to earn the win and help his team snap a four-game losing streak.
Other Takeaways from the Islanders’ Loss
- Adam Pelech was hit into the boards with his head hitting the wall in the third period and left the game shortly after. His health is going to be monitored as losing him for an extended time could be costly for the Islanders.
- Noah Dobson scored the team’s first goal of the game and added an assist in the third period. He has a team-leading eight goals and 10 assists, as he continues to make his mark in the offensive zone.
- Mathew Barzal earned his 25th assist in the game and is tied with Leon Draisaitl for fourth-most in the NHL. This season, he has proved to be one of the best passers and playmakers in the league and one of the reasons for the Islanders’ offensive success.
- Sorokin had one of his worst games of the season. He faced 26 shots and allowed five goals including a few on shots that he typically stops with ease. His struggles in the net ultimately cost the Islanders.
What’s Next for the Islanders
The Islanders have a tough stretch of games ahead of them. They have a few days off until their next game but then play the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 9 and the Carolina Hurricanes the following night. Following the back-to-back, they face the Boston Bruins at TD Garden, who have only lost once in their home arena in a 4-3 shootout to the Vegas Golden Knights.
The upcoming stretch of games is going to be season-defining for the Islanders. They’ve been a good team this year, boasting a 16-11 record but the next three games will test them, and more importantly, determine how they stack up against the best teams 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 writes about the NHL at large, looking at general topics from potential cities for NHL relocation to arena traditions throughout the league. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.