Islanders coach Doug Weight didn’t shy away from calling out the team’s miserable power play after a 6-4 loss to the Wild on Thursday night. A few weeks into the season, it’s not difficult to see where his frustration is coming from.
“The power play, just lethargic, lax, soft,” Weight said, via the New York Post. “Zero battle. Decisions, execution, little flip passes, half speed breakout, just really unacceptable.”
The power play is supposed to be a time of opportunity for NHL teams, but the Islanders have struggled badly in those situations. Through 10 games, they’ve scored two goals and allowed five with the man advantage. They’re one of just two teams with a negative power-play goal differential this season.
Minnesota scored two shorthanded goals on Thursday, including the first career NHL goal from rookie Luke Kunin. Only six other teams have even allowed two shorties during the entire season.
Instead of being the (often significant) edge that it is for most teams, the Islanders are lagging behind in a big way:
The Islanders’ power-play shot rates don’t look much better. The team is 28th in shot attempts per 60 minutes, 26th in shots on goal per 60, and 31st in goals per 60, according to Natural Stat Trick. They allow the fourth-most shot attempts and second-most shots on goal per 60, too. Whether you’re looking at the end results or the underlying shot volume, New York’s power play isn’t getting the job done.
Weight has largely used the same personnel, albeit not always in the same combination. The team’s top 10 PP players this season are forwards John Tavares, Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey, Andrew Ladd, Brock Nelson, and Joshua Ho-Sang, and defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk.
Ho-Sang just got reassigned to the AHL, so he’s out of the mix for now, but generally speaking, the Isles have rolled four-forward, one-defenseman looks with either Leddy or Boychuk at the point. The top unit has usually included Leddy, Tavares, Lee, and Eberle, plus a fifth player. (Barzal and Bailey have gotten the most time there.)
Those are talented players, and theoretically they should be able to do better than a minus-3 differential on the power play. However, power plays are often about system as much as personnel, and for whatever reason, the Islanders’ system has led to poor results so far. Six shorthanded goals allowed in 10 games makes that clear.
Now, there are reasons for hope. Power plays can fluctuate in effectiveness given the small samples being discussed. The Islanders could have a few good games on the power play, build some confidence, and then they’re off to the races. Just look at the Sabres, who went from one of the league’s best power plays to one of the league’s worst so far this season. Things can change quickly.
But for a team that’s trying to put together a strong season to convince Tavares to re-sign, the pressure is on to fix this sooner than later. The Islanders won’t want their season, and possibly their short-term future if Tavares bolts, to unwind simply because they couldn’t get it together on special teams.