Islanders Takeaways From Western Canada Road Trip

The New York Islanders returned from the All-Star break with a three-game road trip and were eager to make up ground in the Metropolitan Division. In the first game back, the Islanders defeated the Vancouver Canucks 6-3, highlighted by a five-goal first period, and looked poised to carry the momentum into the following two games.

Related: New York Islanders Overwhelm Canucks With 5-Goal First Period

Unfortunately, the five-goal first period was one of the few bright spots for the team. The Islanders only scored four goals in the following eight periods and lost consecutive games to the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames. The two tough losses particularly set the Islanders back as they need to make up games and pile on the wins to make the playoffs.

The roster looked fatigued, slow, and outplayed by the end of the road trip, and it might be an indication of what direction general manager Lou Lamoriello and the front office will go ahead of the trade deadline. Some of the issues were minor within the Islanders’ play and can easily be fixed. Similarly, there were a few players that stepped up on the road trip. However, some problems and recurring issues can ultimately become the team’s undoing with the schedule ahead.

Islanders Had Tough Bounces

Luck was not on the Islanders’ side in Alberta, in more than one way, as the team lost back-to-back games. On the ice against the Oilers, the Islanders would have a shot redirected off of a skater’s stick or a tough bounce through traffic into the back of the net. Against the Flames, Adam Pelech would mishandle the puck in the defensive zone to create quick shots and scoring chances for the opponent, or the puck would slide past Ilya Sorkin into the back of the net. The puck wasn’t bouncing their way, and the team failed to garner any momentum in the two losses, only making a bad situation worse capped off with the 5-2 loss to the Flames.

Adam Pelech New York Islanders
Adam Pelech, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Moreover, following the first period against the Canucks, the Islanders lost a step in their game and were outskated by their opponents. Whether fatigue started to set in, especially at the end of the road trip, or the roster is built to play a slow game and couldn’t, the Islanders couldn’t win loose pucks and establish an offensive zone presence, scoring only three goals in two games.

The Islanders are an older roster with an average age of 29.9 and have some of the league’s oldest skaters in the game, including 44-year-old Zdeno Chara and 39-year-old Andy Greene. The team is slower and needs to acquire speed either at the trade deadline or in the offseason as opponents continue to exploit the weakness within the roster, preventing them from creating a winning streak and building momentum.

Sorokin & Shots on Net

Sorokin started all three games on the road trip, and despite allowing three goals or more in all three starts, proved to head coach Barry Trotz that he can and will be the starting goaltender moving forward. The Islanders had a comfortable lead in the game against the Canucks, but the opponent turned up the heat in the final 40 minutes and fired 37 shots on the net. Sorokin made 34 saves and kept the lead intact to preserve the team’s only victory on the road trip.

Ilya Sorokin New York Islanders
Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The game against the Oilers was no different, as the opponent generated 36 shots on net. Sorokin allowed three goals but kept the game close and the Islanders within reach of evening up the score late in the game. The Islanders’ defense didn’t help out the 26-year-old goaltender, and the offense failed to provide goal support. But Sorokin continued to step up in the net and blank the Oilers’ shots, allowing only three tough shots to find the back of the net.

Semyon Varlamov was supposed to start the final game of the road trip and led the Islanders out to warmups against the Flames. Unfortunately, Varlamov tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in a surprise start for Sorokin, who needed the night off. Starting his third game in the net in four days, Sorokin faced 29 shots from the Flames and constant pressure near the net, resulting in an overwhelmed Islanders goaltender and five goals allowed as a result.

Beauvillier Steps Up on the Wing

Anthony Beauvillier is having a rough season, scoring only eight goals and nine assists in a season he was expected to take a big leap forward up front. Beauvillier has played on different forward lines and has struggled to effectively create scoring chances on the wing and carry the puck into the offensive zone, which is the 24-year-old forward’s primary strength.

Anthony Beauvillier New York Islanders
Anthony Beauvillier, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

On the road trip, Beauvillier was one of the few bright spots for a struggling Islanders offense. Playing alongside Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin against the Canucks, Beauvillier had one of the key assists in one of the five goals in the first period, with a great centering pass from the wing. Likewise, the 24-year-old forward was one of the primary threats offensively in the losses against the Oilers, scoring the Islanders only goal and creating quick scoring chances against the Flames as well. The road trip was a reminder of the ceiling that the young forward still possesses and the talent the team has up front, a hopeful sign for the rest of the season.

Other Notes From the Islanders’ Road Trip

Varlamov’s positive test not only hurt the Islanders for the matchup against the Flames, but it’ll have greater implications in the upcoming week. The 33-year-old goaltender now has to isolate in Calgary and will not be available for the next three games, a tough break at a time when the team is desperately trying to make up ground in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Sorokin will likely start the upcoming games, but the team will have to call up a backup from Bridgeport, who might need to start a game to give Sorokin a night off.

The Islanders face the Buffalo Sabres in their next game, and following a difficult trip in Western Canada, the team is desperate to regain their footing and get back to the win column.

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