As an Islanders fan, there is a lot to be excited about this season. However, there are also some issues that the team will need to address if they want to contend for a Cup. They currently sit in third place in the East Division. Right now, they are four points behind the Capitals for first place. They are seven points up on their cross-town rival, the New York Rangers, who are in fifth in the division. A win on Saturday in regulation would earn the Isles a playoff spot guarenteed.
Issue #1: Scoring Depth
This is one of the issues that truly goes without saying. Anyone who watches hockey knows full well that the Isles have struggled to put pucks into the back of the net all season. Particularly since Anders Lee went down with a torn ACL/MCL/meniscus.
The Islanders attempted to remedy this at the deadline when they acquired Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac, and they have done some good for the Isles. However, they have been unable to fill the hole that Anders Lee left open.
Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey, and Jordan Eberle could also afford to be better right now, as well. They are the top guys for a reason, and they are not proving to anyone that reason. They need to be better.
Defense may win championships, but you also need to score to win. And that is something the Isles have had issues with lately.
Issue #2: Defense
Another problem that the Islanders have struggled with, particularly of late, is their defense. Something that is typically a strong suit of Barry Trotz’s teams has been lackluster recently.
There is no doubt that they can turn this around. New York still has a few games before the playoffs start, and they have pretty much locked up a spot at this point. The issue is simply making sure that the defense and scoring line up.
There is no doubt in the minds of hockey fans that the Islanders are a talented team that can contend well into June and July this season. They just need to put the offense and defense together. How can they do that? Well, that brings in issue number three.
Issue #3: Intensity
This is probably the biggest issue of them all, but it is seemingly the least talked about.
Of late, the Isles have been in a funk. These things happen over the course of a season. Be it a 56-game or 82-game season. Every single team in the NHL is going to struggle at some point. This is a matter of fact. So how can the Islanders get out of the funk? Well, intensity will help.
A lot of NHL fans claim the Islanders play a boring style of hockey. Dump the puck into the offensive zone and then change out their lines. They do this for 60-plus minutes a night, and it usually works.
The issue arises when this strategy doesn’t work. And right now, it hasn’t worked. Watching games, it almost feels like the Islanders think hitting the goalie gets them wins. They look like they have forgotten that the puck needs to cross the goal line for them to win. The Isles don’t even have the shootout to save them after May 10. They will have to do it all under NHL regulation rules, essentially.
New York needs to come out of the gate firing on all cylinders right away. And they need to battle for all 60 minutes. This whole starting slow thing can’t and won’t work in the playoffs. Many believe that the team that comes out of the East wins it all. And it isn’t too crazy to think that considering the four teams will likely be Washington, Pittsburgh, Boston, and the Isles, in some order or another. Intensity is key against any of those four teams, without a doubt.
Now, don’t think that just because this article is ripping into the Isles and their issues that they are not a serious contender to hoist Lord Stanley for the fifth time in franchise history. Even if they can fix the defense and intensity, they can compete. Their goaltending can make up for some of the below-average offense. They did it last year, and it is pretty clear that Ilya Sorokin is better than Thomas Greiss, and Semyon Varlamov is still an Islander.