Nov 26, 2018; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz (center) looks on from behind the bench against the Washington Capitals during the third period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

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Graziano: Power Outage Has Islanders Searching For Answers

Andy Graziano
December 13, 2018 - 12:02 pm
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Last night at Barclays Center, the lights would not come on at the end of the second period, as the  Islanders were knotted at two goals a piece with the Vegas Golden Knights. After a 13-minute delay, the technical team in Brooklyn figured out the issue and New York went on to lose to last year’s darlings of the NHL, 3-2, before 9,000 disappointed fans.

It’s been a power outage, in one way, shape or form, for the Islanders over the course of the past eight games costing the team valuable points in a crowded Metropolitan Division and threatens to derail their promising start under new head coach, Barry Trotz.

There was always bound to be an offensive regression for many reasons. Firstly, losing their captain and talisman John Tavares to free agency, followed by replacing the loss with the likes of grinding players like Leo Komarov, Tom Kuhnhackl and to a lesser degree, Valtteri Filppula and finally, a more defensive minded coach in Trotz.

But nobody could have foreseen the struggles on the Scott Gomez-led power play and the straight-line, dull type of offense the team has seemingly settled into, starting with a lackluster breakout that has the team struggling to transition from their own zone with speed and success.

Over their last eight games, the Islanders have scored only 14 goals (1.75 per) after notching 26 over the previous eight (3.25). The power play is six for their last 61 (1 for 28 past 12 games) and even though the defense has not allowed more than 30 shots in their last five games, they only have one win to show for it (a 3-2 road win over Detroit).

Last night, turnovers and miscommunication would be all last year’s Stanley Cup finalists would need, as Nick Leddy and Ryan Pulock had a rough go while Thomas Hickey and Robin Lehner could not come together on a simple grab and cover, leading to the game-winning goal by Thomas Nosek at 3:32 of the third period. New York would only muster eight harmless shots in the frame and even with Lehner pulled and a six on five advantage, not much even made it close to Marc-Andre Fleury.

“We have to communicate better. I wanted him to cover it, but he couldn’t see it, didn’t know where it was”, Hickey said post-game. “It’s on the both of us to get it out of harm. We talked about it, it looks simple, but there are blind spots out there for everyone, it’s a split second thing.”

Pulock’s turnover, which led to the Hickey-Lehner confusion and game-winning goal, was just another example of one little mistake in a 60-minute game coming back to haunt the Islanders in this recent dry stretch.

“I just got the puck and felt like they had three guys coming down the wall and didn’t want to rim it, we didn’t have anyone there, so I tried swinging it back to the corner and go pick it up, and yeah….”, said the defenseman in a somber locker room. “We do a good job for most of the night, right in all these games, we just can’t find a way to score that extra goal, even leading, getting that next one to add onto that lead. We’re doing a lot of good things, and it’s frustrating, but we have to fight through it, win some games. I feel like we keep playing this way, we’re gonna get on a roll.”

Captain Anders Lee spoke of the team spirit in the wake of this losing string.

“You battle through it," Lee said. "It’s what makes teams good, having that character, facing adversity, come back from a loss or two or an injury. We stick together, that’s what matters right now. It’s a fun opportunity to play this game and be able to come out Saturday and right the ship.”

Will Josh Get His Chance?

Josh Ho-Sang took warmups last night. So did Leo Komarov and Ross Johnston. The latter two ended up playing, while the young Islander took another seat in the press box.

While many on Twitter were screaming about Komarov being in the lineup, it’s Johnston who should have taken a back seat to the playmaking wing (forget the whole LW/RW for a minute, these guys can and would play anywhere). The struggling Islanders could have used an infusion of youth and talent offensively, without a question.

However, you have to wonder where Ho-Sang’s head is at, after that interview with the New York Post publicized around Halloween. After Trotz and general manager Lou Lamoriello had some things to say about his shooting-passing splits in Bridgeport, this is what the reply was to NHL.com’s Brian Compton after the morning skate on Wednesday.

“I’m not here to prove anything, really," Ho-Sang said. "Just want to step on the ice and have some fun. Sometimes I wonder why there needs to be so much balance (between shooting/passing). I think if you have an exceptional playmaker and he creates, he should be with guys who can score. I think it kind of goes hand in hand. It's more rewarding to get an assist. Helping out a friend."

Sometimes, you have to take your medicine and keep quiet, continue working hard to force your way into the lineup and when you do, make it impossible for them to take you out. That’s not what that sounds like. It sounds an awful like questioning a hall of fame coach and executive for being in a position that you, yourself, are mostly, not fully, responsible for.