The New York Islanders traveled to Los Angeles following a 4-3 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks desperate to return to the win column. Instead, the Islanders were outplayed by the Los Angeles Kings from the opening puck drop and lost 5-2. They only have 19 wins in their first 49 games played on the season.
The Islanders remain outside of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference and with consecutive losses, the front office might look towards retooling the roster at the trade deadline in a few weeks. The recent loss continued to show some of the weaknesses within the team that has tripped up the Islanders throughout the season and have limited their ability to build momentum and make a push for the playoffs.
Islanders Slow Starts
The Islanders have played from behind throughout the season and struggle early on in games. The matchup against the Kings was no exception as the Islanders allowed the first goal within the first four minutes with Phillip Danault finding an open shot near the net. Since returning from the All-Star break, the Islanders have only scored the first goal in three games. The Kings only made things worse a few minutes later when Matt Roy was found open at the faceoff circle with a cross-ice pass from Anze Kopitar to extend the lead to 2-0.
Early on, the Islanders were playing slow and more importantly, missed assignments in the defensive zone. Head coach Barry Trotz has driven this team’s success in recent seasons largely out of its disciplined play, picking up skaters in the defensive zone and limiting open shots on the net. The recent game, however, was one where the Islanders skaters were out of position and the Kings were always two steps ahead. By the time the team found its footing, the score was 3-0. The game essentially felt out of reach, resulting in the 5-2 final score.
Varlamov’s Rough Return
After Ilya Sorokin started eight consecutive games for the Islanders, veteran goaltender Semyon Varlamov finally got the start in the net for the team. The veteran goaltender will be a pivotal part of the second half of the season for the team with a great goaltending duo possibly carrying the Islanders to a playoff spot, making the game against the Kings a crucial one. The strategy against Varlamov was clear from the beginning of the game, as the Kings generated 34 shots on the veteran goaltender, testing him in his first start back and scoring four goals in the process.
Varlamov didn’t get a lot of help from the otherwise strong defensive unit as the Kings found plenty of scoring chances, especially early on in the game. However, Varlamov made 30 saves in the game and held the Kings to one goal in the final 39 minutes. The veteran goaltender provides a much-needed night off for Sorokin, who is expected to start the upcoming game, and the two goaltenders will have to split starts moving forward with the Islanders’ intense schedule ahead with plenty of back-to-back scenarios.
Dobson Steps Up
One of the few bright spots in the loss, and for most of the season for the Islanders has been the play of 22-year-old defenseman Noah Dobson. The defensive unit has struggled to generate offense from the point or carry the puck into the offensive zone, but Dobson has emerged as the team’s best skating defenseman and more importantly, has established himself as a playmaker from the point. Against the Kings, the young defenseman was beating the opponents to the puck and was creating scoring chances in the offensive zone, leading to two assists in the loss.
Anders Lee found the back of the net for the Islanders’ first goal of the game with a great pass in space from the 22-year-old defenseman while Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored in the final minutes off a shot from the blue line. Dobson now has eight goals and 17 assists on the season, both first among Islanders defensemen. The past two seasons have allowed Dobson to mature into a starter, and now the young defenseman looks to be an integral part of the team’s success for years to come. He will only continue to improve as the team’s best skating defenseman.
Other Notes from the Islanders’ 5-2 Loss
Late in the game, the Islanders were playing without Mathew Barzal and Zdeno Chara who were both injured but kept out of the game out of an abundance of precaution. It’s unclear how long both skaters will be out of the lineup and if they will miss any games. For a team that has already dealt with a handful of injuries and skaters missing time, this could be another tough blow to an already difficult season. Against the Kings, the Islanders also allowed five power-play opportunities but stepped up on the penalty kill to leave the opponent scoreless on the man advantage, a promising sign for the team in the current stretch of games.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink has written for multiple sports blogs and platforms covering the NHL, NFL, MLB, and college sports. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.