Graziano: Islanders' Slow Start No Need For Panic

Andy Graziano
October 09, 2019 - 1:59 pm
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The New York Islanders began their 2019-20 campaign with three games at Nassau Coliseum and proceeded to drop two of those, starting slow in each game and never getting going in two of them.

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Remember, however, it was only a year ago that the Islanders were 3-4-1 after eight games and were never below .500 again, going 45-23-6 the rest of the way. I’m not suggesting they rest on that fact, but it’s hard to rush to judgment on such a small sample size.

There isn’t much shame losing 2-1 to the Washington Capitals and in defeating the Winnipeg Jets 4-1, New York showed remarkable bounce-back ability in a season way too early for snap judgments. On Tuesday, however, they played a one-line team in the Edmonton Oilers and proceeded to get blown out of their ‘home’ arena, 5-2 in a lackluster display.

Never engaged and playing a soft game that must drive head coach Barry Trotz nuts, New York conceded the neutral zone too easily and didn’t bother to tie up many in front of Semyon Varlamov or Thomas Greiss, who split the loss evenly. 

Edmonton scored three of its five goals at even strength on 17 shots as Varlamov looked out of position on two of the three goals he allowed before getting an early hook. Anthony Beauvillier continued his strong start to the season, adding a shorthanded goal on a breakaway and you have to wonder how long he remains on a third line unit that features slow-footed Leo Komarov.

Trotz called out Brock Nelson post-game (35.29 5v5 Corsi) after the forward played, arguably, his worst game in the past two seasons. ‘Brock has to be out there against the other team’s top players and be productive. You can’t do that taking six minutes of penalties in the first period. So, we let other guys play’.

He also called out rookie Noah Dobson for a strong debut, praising his hockey IQ and instincts while adding, ‘Our top players have to be our top players. We were just way too soft on that team tonight.’

Anders Lee
USA TODAY Images

With uncorroborated rumors flying of something brewing with the defensively starved Jets, New York is showing a need for more offense early on after finishing last year with 41 games of two or fewer goals scored. There has been no confirmation of anything close, but Dobson’s strong debut, which included his first NHL point (assist) and 61.1% even-strength Corsi, things could be becoming more clear in terms of what Lou Lamoriello needs to do in an offensively charged league.

It’s back to the practice rink for New York, as their next game comes in Carolina on Friday and a chance to get things even again with a win in a building that has not been too kind to them.

Lamoriello must continue to scour the league for some help for a team not off to the type of start that will quiet Trotz calling for more offense at the conclusion of last season. Mathew Barzal is already pressing a bit, scoreless through three and the Islanders' first line has not maintained the possession in the offensive zone they need to for this team to be successful.

So, at the end of the day, given how last season turned out after a sleepy eight-game start, this is no time to panic if you’re an Islander player or fan, but you also can’t get complacent. The Islanders president and general manager need to work, as this league continues to get better, faster and more dynamic on the offensive front. 

The Islanders have a top system and when they play structured, they are as hard as anyone to score on. Unfortunately, you can’t win games 0-0 and you can’t continue to rely on 1-0, 2-1 grind-fests for another 82-game season. It becomes too much ... for anyone.

Follow Andy on Twitter: @AndyGraz_WFAN