The Islanders kicked off their 2016 season with a dismal 1-3 start, much to the dismay of Isles faithfuls. Just four games into the season, the team has already began to hear criticizm over slow starts and lack of energy on the ice.
The Isles lost 2-3 on Tuesday night in San Jose thanks to a lazy play that broke the tie in the Sharks' favor with minutes left on the clock. They showed flashes of greatness, especially in the second period when Anthony Beauvillier scored his first NHL goal with a textbook strike on the puck, squeezing past Sharks goalie Aaron Dell.
The 19-year-old provided a spark to an otherwise dormant offense, as teammate Anders Lee scored shortly after to put the Islanders ahead 2-1. The Isles had stolen momentum and looked to build on their lead and improve their record.
Instead, the Islanders closed out sluggishly for the rest of the game. They gave up a late second period goal and the wheels fell off from there. The Islanders lost 3-2, the first time they lost to a Western Conference team at home since moving to Brooklyn.
The Isles’ lack of star center John Tavares continues to reflect negatively on the final score. That is not a knock on Andrew Ladd; he and Tavares are a good pair on the top line.
However, they have not been allotted the time to build chemistry considering it is their first year together. Furthermore, the pair simply cannot match up with the League’s powerhouses without a massive restructuring of the roster. Many are hoping that Beauvillier will fill this void, but team chemistry will undoubtedly be a long-term project. The offensive weapon had a great training camp, which it is translating into a stellar regular season. His hockey IQ is very high, allowing Tavares to spread the puck more frequently compared to previous seasons.
The Islanders recalled defenseman Ryan Pulock from Bridgeport after Nick Leddy was sidelined with a finger infection. Being surprisingly snubbed from the regular season following training camp, Pulock looked to secure a permanent spot by anchoring an otherwise struggling defense.
This proposition quickly fell through as the Canada native broke his foot in the first period against Arizona. This comes as another blow to Pulock’s young career, who has battled injury throughout his time in the league.
The Isles’ best plays this season consistently come off of penalty kills, saving the team from many blow-out situations. On the other hand, the power-play offense is struggling yet again thanks to low shot attempts that lead to missed opportunities. In order to be successful on the power play, the team must stop looking for the perfect pass and instead focus on creating shots and taking advantage of deflections.
On Sunday night, the Isles faced off against the Minnesota Wild, turning their fortunes at the hands of a nice 6-3 victory. This was a big win for the Islanders who desperately needed to avoid a loss to build overall team confidence.
The Isles dominated the puck, which afforded them better shot selection and, ultimately, more goals. Much to the delight of Islanders' fans, Tavares led the way with two pucks finding the back of the goal net. Beauvillier was in the middle of the action, notching two assists, simultaneously advancing to five points in five games.
Goalie Jaroslav Halak has played decently, at best, for the Islanders, by giving up soft goals on multiple occasions, which ultimately spelled the difference between win and loss.
Halak and Greiss are both good goaltenders that give the Islanders a winning chance, so fans should not panic at this point in the season. It is key for the duo moving forward to not give up underwhelming goals, especially right before the period’s end.
Although it is much too early to make any concrete predictions on their season, the Islanders run the risk of falling to the bottom of the pack if they continue to play complacently.
Last season, the Isles barely qualified for the playoffs, waiting until the final week in the regular season to learn their fate. Granted, it was the team’s second consecutive playoff berth, further speaking to the fact that the Islanders forced themselves into tough and unnecessary late-season predicaments.
While the Islanders are off to a slow start, they are still notorious for their late season playoff rushes. However, for the sake of fans’ interest, the team would be well advised to take control over their season early, instead of forcing themselves into high-pressure situations later on.
The Isles have a stretch of home games, a big plus as they have always played well at home. The team is currently middle-of-the-pack in the Metropolitan division, but they must put together quality wins early on in order to stay within distance of the defending champion, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Furthermore, the rest of the Metropolitan League has played exceptionally well to start the season. If they continue to play complacently, they will quickly fall out of reach of their competitors.