The New York Islanders are one win away from making the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 27 years. The problem is, the Philidelphia Flyers aren’t ready to roll over. The Islanders were atrocious in game 5. The Islanders cannot repeat that performance; there cannot be a game 7. There are some mistakes the Islanders need to fix if they want to take the next step to the dance of immortals.
The Islanders have a lot of trouble breaking out of their own zone, especially in overtime. This is an elementary problem that is an easy fix. But, this one simple problem could be the end of this Cinderella run. A breakout pass creates offense and takes the pressure off the defense. If a team can break out of their own zone, they most likely will live to see another shift. That’s two overtime’s in a row where a line got caught on a long shift, and the Isles paid the price. Barry Trotz isn’t stressing over the little things, but the teams who perfect the little things win championships. This problem is not about the system, it’s the players.
Faceoffs in Big Moments
The Islanders are loaded at the center position, and they win a lot of faceoffs in regular time. Once overtime came around, the Flyers won almost every faceoff. If you have JG Pageau, Brock Nelson, and Derick Brassard on the same roster, there is no excuse to lose multiple faceoffs in a row. That’s normally why the powerplay conversion percentage is so low. If you lose the faceoff, it takes another 20 seconds to get back into the offensive zone. The same thing goes for overtime; the Islanders must win more than half of the faceoffs.
The Flyers might have three actual goals all series. Every Flyers’ goal has been some sort of tip-in. There is way too much traffic in front of Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov is a great goalie who has been on fire, but it’s hard to stop a 101MPH slapshot when five guys are in your face. The Islanders need to start using their bodies more. Ryan Pulock, Anders Lee, and Matt Martin are all big guys who have to use their bodies more. If you can move people out of the crease, Varlamov will have a field day.
The Islanders need to shore up on the little things before they can think about the big things. It all starts with the fundamentals of the game. Barry Trotz will whip them into winning shape, so Isles fans, there is no need to worry.