As a fanbase it is very difficult to wrap our heads around the fact that the Islanders have gone from sweeping away the Pittsburgh Penguins to being in danger of suffering the same fate at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes. What has led to this and is there a way that this could be overcome? We must first look to the obvious thoughts. Are the Hurricanes significantly better than the Penguins? I think it would be difficult to find any hockey fan outside of the Carolina’s to agree to that point. The Pens have the resume while the Canes do not. Is this a bad matchup for the Islanders? Again, the Pens had the potential to be a tougher matchup than the Canes. The Isles and Canes try to play a similar style game revolving around playing well in their own zones. There is little evidence to show that the Islanders can’t play that style of hockey. Are there any significant changes that occurred? While missing Johnny Boychuk has been a problem, this series has not turned on terrible defensive play. While it may have been good to have Boychuk in the lineup, it is a tough case to say the series would be different with him in the lineup.
The answer to why things are different are a simple as putting the puck in the net. While I hesitant to use the term “luck” because of the negative connotations behind it. The biggest difference between this series and the one with the Penguins is the puck is no longer going in the net. This was the fear going into the playoffs, and those fears have come true. They have not been good enough to put the puck in the net. In round one the Islanders scored on 10.1% of their shots which was good for 14 goals. While in round 2 they have scored on 3.4% of shots which has been good for 3 goals. In round one they averaged 32.25 shots a game while in round 2 the average has only dipped to 29.3. For reference the shooting percentage for the season was 9.4%. During round 1, the Capitals shooting percentage was at 10.5%. If the Isles were to keep their season long shooting percentage, they would be averaging 2.75 goals a game.
Unfortunately, this was the problem that everyone feared before the trade deadline. As difficult as it is to pinpoint specific players who should no longer be in the lineup (I tried with Kuhnhackl last month, that didn’t age well), everyone knew that at least one goal scorer needed to find their way into the lineup. Without much of a sample size to go by, I would imagine this is the type of series where a team can come back from 0-3. This is not to say that the Islanders are all of sudden going to open up the floodgates and pile in the goals. It is to say that if they could get anywhere close to their season long shooting percentage this has the ability to be a completely new series.
There is something ironic about the Islanders falling behind this way. The Islanders have outplayed their statistics all season. Most of that came on the defensive end, even during this series, their save percentage is higher than during the regular season. Now with the season on the brink it seems like the Islanders are finally underplaying their statistics.