New York Islanders: Did Losing Game 4 Benefit the Islanders?

New York Islanders

Last year the New York Islanders got swept by the Carolina Hurricanes after sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Islanders were a game away from sweeping the Capitals this year. If the Isles won game 4, they would be the first team to officially make the second round. The first round is still going on, it either ends today or on Sunday. Rest is the enemy of a team that’s hot. The Islanders would’ve had at least five days of rest in between rounds if they swept. Isles fans saw how sloppy the team was after their elongated rest. I believe the Islanders will benefit from winning in 5 games.

The Benefits

This Islanders team is hot right now. Hotter than they’ve been in a while. For the first time in years, the Islanders are finally cup contenders. Players like Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey, and Semyon Varlamov are on fire. Beauvillier has six goals and three assists during the playoffs.

Josh Bailey has recorded two goals and eight assists during the playoffs. These are some impressive performances for some unsung heroes. Speaking of unsung heroes, Semyon Varlamov is boasting a 1.59 GAA, and a .935 save percentage and most recently pitched a shutout. These players will continue to stay hot. Players like Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, and Mat Barzal will be able to find their rhythm. The Islanders need that first line to get hot. There’s a ton of benefits to lack of rest.

The Negatives

This team isn’t currently beaten up. Cal Clutterbuck is the only Islander with a confirmed injury, and he was a game-time decision yesterday. Just because there isn’t a confirmed injury doesn’t mean everyone is 100%. The playoffs are tough on everyone, especially the old bodies like Andy Greene. The Islanders will only have around three days to rest and recover. It’s not a long time, but it’s not a short time either. Three days should be enough for everyone to get healthy and ready to eliminate the Flyers/Bruins.

Conclusion

The Islanders will benefit from losing game 4. They still have enough time to rest and recover, but they haven’t been off the ice long enough to lose their hot streak.

New York Islanders: 3 Keys to Win Game 5

Alex Ovechkin

The New York Islanders will play the Washington Capitals on Thursday in game 5 of the series. The Islanders are just coming off of a game 4 to forget. Other than the first 10 minutes of the first period, the Capitals dominated the Islanders. The Islanders weren’t getting shots on net; they were taking bad penalties, and not converting on the power play as per usual. If the Isles want to put the series to bed now, rather than give the Capitals hope, they need to accomplish three important tasks.

Covering Ovechkin

If you take away Ovechkin from this series, the Capitals would only have four goals and would’ve been swept already. There’s something so simple, yet difficult in covering one guy. Especially on the power play, the Isles cannot leave Ovechkin open. All Ovechkin ever does is go to the left faceoff circle and take a one-timer. I don’t care if your name is Carey Price, or Darcy Kuemper, or in this case, Semyon Varlamov, you cannot stop every shot from Ovechkin. Also, if there’s a 2v1 opportunity for the Capitals with Ovechkin, the defensemen must cover Ovie. Everyone would rather see Ovie pass to Tom Wilson and Varlamov make a stop, then Ovie ripping a wrister from 15 feet out.

Converting on the Power Play

The New York Islanders power play is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. How can you possibly go 1/19 on the power play in this series alone?  The Islanders are averaging around five power plays per game, and only converting on .052% of them.

Something must change in either the personnel or just the system of the power play. If Tom Wilson is going to board Scott Mayfield and almost destroy his collarbone, the Isles have to make the Caps pay for it. There’s no reason why this power play shouldn’t work either. There’s talent everywhere, Ryan Pulock can take a booming slapshot from the point. Jordan Eberle can walk in on any defender and go backhand to the toy department. Anders Lee can tap in basically anything, as long as he doesn’t fall. Mat Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier can split the defenders on entries, Pageau and Nelson can win any faceoff. The list goes on and on. There is no excuse for the power play not to score.

Staying Disciplined

The Islanders cannot allow the Capitals to get power-play chances.

New York Islanders: How to Fix the Power Play

New York Islanders, Devon Toews

The New York Islanders are currently 5/30 on the power play during the playoffs. This makes them 7th in power-play playoff rankings. Now, this isn’t a terrible ranking, but only converting on 16.7% of your 5v4 opportunities is not going to win you a cup. The Islanders have to clean up three problems to fix their power play for the playoffs, and hopefully for many years to come.

Zone Entries

The way the Islanders enter the zone on power plays is flat out annoying. It always starts with a drop pass from Devon Toews to Mat Barzal; Barzal then makes two moves and loses possession. The Islanders need to cut out the drop pass first of all. The number of times the penalty killers have intercepted the drop pass is countless. Also, why wouldn’t the Isles just chip and chase? It’s a 5v4, and you have the fastest player in the league. Also, you have Anders Lee, who is a huge body. There’s no reason to not chip and chase. If anything, it’ll lead to more offensive zone time and more penalty killers out of position.

Faceoffs

If you win the faceoff that’s in the offensive zone when you’re up a man, chances are you’ll have a good opportunity to score. The Islanders almost never win the offensive zone faceoff. How are you going to lose a faceoff to Lars Eller? I don’t know why Trotz won’t let JG Pageau take the faceoff; it makes no sense, he’s the best faceoff guy on the team. Also, why is Anders Lee taking faceoffs? I understand you don’t want Barzal to take faceoffs from his non-dominant side, but you have more than one center on the ice during the PP.

Personnel

Here is something I’ve never understood, why does the first PP line have five left-handed players? That means everyone is catching passes on their backhand and not facing towards the net. In what world does having five left-handed players on the ice benefit this team? Trotz needs to put someone like Eberle and Pulock on the first line PP so that shots will actually go on the net. The first line PP doesn’t even get one-timers, they have to switch back to forehand before they even shoot. Something needs to change in the personnel department.

Conclusion

The Islanders could be one of the most dangerous teams in the league if they fixed their power play problems. Can’t make a deep run if you can’t take advantage of mistakes.

New York Islanders: Has Ilya Sorokin Improved Varlamov’s Game?

Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders

New York Islanders‘ goalie Semyon Varlamov has been nothing short of sensational during the playoffs. Varlamov is currently boasting a 1.71 GAA with a .932 save percentage. Not only that, but Varlamov also has only allowed five even-strength goals in 7 games. The powerplay goals are not his fault normally, but even counting those goals, Varlamov has only allowed 12 goals in 7 games.

The Capitals have astounding goal scorers like Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, and Jacob Vrana. The Panthers have studs like Alexander Barkov, Mike Hoffman, and Jonathan Huberdeau. Varlamov has been shutting down top goal scorers this entire playoff run. This play has differentiated from the normal Varlamov Islander fans all know. Varlamov had a 2.62 GAA, and a .914 save percentage during this season. There could be a reason why his play has drastically changed, and his name is Ilya Sorokin.

Ilya Sorokin

The Islanders signed Ilya Sorokin on July 13th, 2020. Sorokin is the best goalie outside of the NHL; his stats only back that up. For the last six years, Sorokin has had a GAA under 2.00, and 5/6 years he’s had a save percentage over .930. Most recently, Sorokin boasted a .73 GAA with a .966 save percentage during the KHL playoffs. Even though the KHL playoffs ended after the first round, it’s undeniable how dominant Sorokin was. Sorokin is now bringing his talents to the Island and putting Varlamov in competition.

Competition

Varlamov being the competitor he always has been, will not go down without a fight. “Varly” has fought against good goalies all his life. Braden Holtby, Michael Neuvirth, Philipp Grubauer, and Thomas Greiss. This competition is nothing new for the longtime NHL goalie. Varlamov, as previously stated, has been standing on his head this entire playoff run. If Varlamov continues this play into next season, it will be very hard to replace him as the starter. However, if Sorokin has been creating this pressure in practice, Sorokin could be the starter next year.

Conclusion

Seymon Varlamov is one of the best goalies in the playoffs right now. If everything is clicking in between the pipes and the forwards are scoring gritty goals, the Islanders are a hard team to beat.

New York Islanders: Islanders take Game 3

New York Islanders

The New York Islanders defeat the Washington Capitals in overtime with a score of 2-1 to make the series 3-0. The Islanders made the Capitals play their style of Hockey today, and it worked. No team in the NHL can beat the Islanders in a defensive matchup. The only way to beat the Isles is to outscore them. But, if Seymon Varlamov has a game like he did today, they’re pretty much unbeatable.

The Islanders are in a great position to sweep the Capitals on Tuesday night. The mindset for the Isles right now is: “We’re up 3-0, we’re dominating board play, playing great defense, Varlamov is standing on his head, let’s just play our game.”

This team is a system team, without Trotz who knows where the Isles would be. But, the only way the system works is if everyone buys in. That’s why in the post-game press conference Mat Barzal said “the 4th game is the hardest, but we just gotta buy into the system”. The system is an easy, yet complicated one. All Trotz asks is for his players to forecheck hard, play tough in the neutral zone, and make smart passes. This system doesn’t lead to 30 goal goal-scorers, but it leads to championships if you buy-in.

The Islanders have very little work to do to win game 4. Especially if Nicklas Backstrom is still out with a concussion. The Islanders need to stay on their toes, don’t take any stupid penalties, and wait for their opportunity to arise.

None of these players are true “snipers,” but you don’t need snipers if you can get gritty goals. The Islanders play within the dots, real rough and tough Hockey, so they don’t necessarily need a sniper. If the Islanders play their game again and buy into the system, there will be a sweep coming.

New York Islanders: Thomas Greiss’s Future

Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders

New York Islanders‘ goalie Thomas Greiss is a fan favorite. It’s not hard to see why either, every time he makes a big save, the whole fanbase shouts “Greisser.” Greiss had an average year in net this year. Nothing in his performances really wowed anyone, but he is still the reliable 1b starter the Islanders fans all love dearly. Thomas Greiss, who has been on four different teams, is an unrestricted free agent this year. With the Islanders already having minimal cap space and having to resign Mat Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Devon Toews, there’s a big possibility that Greiss’s 5-year tenure ends with the Islanders.

Projected Contract

Thomas Greiss isn’t going to be looking for big money in free agency. Also, he may give the Islanders a little discount when it comes time to resign him. Currently, Greiss is making $3.3 million a year; this number will most likely decline. Greiss, who isn’t declining in play, is just getting old now. Normally old players don’t get as much money as younger ones. I project around a 2.2-2.5 million dollar contract for Greiss. Now, it’s not a huge number, but it’s a number that respects his play. This still might be way too much money for the Islanders. The Islanders are looking at around 12.3 million dollars this offseason, and again have that big three they have to resign.

Ilya Sorokin

Ilya Sorokin will take Thomas Greiss’s job either now or really soon. I don’t expect the Islanders to let Sorokin rot in the AHL with Brent Thompson. Also, Sorokin is the best goalie outside of the NHL. His stats, which are insane, still don’t do the man justice. The Islanders aren’t going to let Sorokin waste time, as he’s already 25. Sorokin’s development will spell the end for Greiss.

Future Teams

A lot of teams need a new goalie. The Penguins will need one when they make Murray leave. The Leafs might need one to be a backup. The Red Wings obviously need a new goalie. The Capitals could use a goalie if they let Holtby walk. Greiss is good enough to play 30 games a year still, and contending teams need that. I wouldn’t be surprised if Greiss wins a cup within the next 2-3 years with another team. He’s still a solid goalie, but there’s not enough room for him on the Islanders. There are other teams that will pay better and feature him every other night.

New York Islanders: Should Ross Johnston Play in Game 2?

ross johnston, New York Islanders

The identity of the New York Islanders is a tough, physical, defensive team. Who’s the first player that comes to your mind that’s on the Islanders who’s tough, physical, and defensive? Most people would say Cal Clutterbuck, or Casey Cizikas, possibly even Matt Martin.

Then there are the few people who say, Ross Johnston. Ross Johnston is a goon. He’s the enforcer, the head hunter, the brawler. This series vs. the Capitals is a brawler series. I mean, the Capitals have Tom Wilson, Radko Gudas, and Garnet Hathaway.

Many fans are calling for Ross Johnston to come in and replace Leo Komarov on the 3rd line so that the Islanders can fire back. Is this a smart move for the Islanders, though?

Why Ross Johnston Shouldn’t Start

As previously stated, Ross Johnston is a goon. You cannot go into playoff hockey with undisciplined players. Islanders fans saw their team take seven penalties in game one alone. The Islanders have a bad penalty kill, and the Capitals have Alex Ovechkin. Why risk losing a game because you want your goon to hurt Tom Wilson.

The playoffs are for teams who can win the Stanley Cup, not for teams who would rather fight other players. Also, what else does Johnston offer for this team? Leo Komarov at least can play on the penalty kill. Tom Kuhnhackl is great on the forecheck. Andrew Ladd offers veteran leadership and a winning mentality. Michael Dal Colle exists, I guess. Johnston just delivers hits. There’s no reason for Johnston to play unless he can show that he can bring more to this team, such as forechecking or good skating.

Conclusion

I don’t believe there’s a reason for Johnston to play for the rest of the playoffs. The Islanders are here to win the cup, not to injure other players.