The New York Islanders have some of the most offensively gifted players in the NHL, but still manage to have a power-play that lets down the team on a nightly basis.
When the Islanders lost to the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Monday night, it was their missed opportunities that took center stage. The Islanders outplayed the Stanley Cup champions; however, they once again lost due to their power-play, as they went 0-3 on the man advantage.
The Islanders are currently tied for the fifth-worst power-play in the NHL, managing to only score on 15.4% (12/78) of their power-plays this season. In November, the Islanders power-play went a measly 4/45, certainly not the best recipe to having a successful hockey team.
One major factor for the lack of success is Scott Gomez’s scheme. He has more than enough pieces to have a successful power-play, but he has allowed the power-play units to play loose. When on the man advantage, the Islanders play with no sense of urgency, wasting precious time.
Another issue the Islanders have is the lack of speed with the puck in the offensive zone. When Josh Bailey, Nick Leddy and Mathew Barzal have the puck, they frequently hold onto it and wait for the perfect pass, rather than moving it quickly, which would give the defense less time to react.
Perhaps the biggest casualty of this is Anders Lee. Lee is known for having a strong body and a dominant net-front presence. By looking for these high quality chances and being more patient, less shot attempts will be taken, which leads to less loose puck opportunities for Lee, who is known for scoring gritty goals in front of the net.
One potential solution for this is playing Ryan Pulock with Mathew Barzal. Having Barzal on the ice is enough to make teams fret when being down a man. Now imagine if Barzal was feeding the puck to Pulock. Pulock is notorious for his hard slap-shot that has impressed Islander fans since the night he was drafted, and he would be able to use it more effectively playing with Barzal.
A first unit of Mat Barzal, Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Ryan Pulock and Nick Leddy could be the recipe for a successful power-play. In Thursday’s loss in Boston, Barzal only notched four seconds of power-play time, making a promotion for the Islanders best player needed. Additionally, Leddy also needs to see more time on the man advantage and take more shots. Against Washington, Leddy looked like his old self, taking numerous shots, and playing smart with the puck on the power-play. Leddy has looked much improved since his shaky start to the 2018-19 season, and having him as another effective puck distributor would only give the Islanders a better chance to get out of this power-play slump.
While the Islanders may be winning games, the power-play needs a new look for this team to truly be a contender.