Tell me where you’ve heard this one before.
The Islanders are handed a power play late in the game with a chance to either win or go ahead. What happens? They completely shit the bed and end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
Well that scenario, which reared its ugly head again last night, came in probably the most important spot the team has been in all postseason long.
I’m not going to even acknowledge the five-minute power play in the first. The reason being, it was still too early in the game and both power play units were more aggressive. Instead, we’re going to focus on the more crucial part of the contest and what ensued then.
Tied at one, the Isles received a two-man advantage for 38 seconds just near the midpoint of the third period. Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette took an unnecessary hooking penalty on Mathew Barzal shortly after Ryan McDonagh got called for holding Brock Nelson, who I might add had a very eventful evening, not in a good way either.
The game basically on the line, the power play sputtered. No, worse, they barely challenged Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Only Anders Lee and Anthony Beauvillier had quality chances. But that was it. In the end, the Islanders mustered just three shots even after Paquette exited the box.
If you’re an Islander fan, you knew the game was lost there. And you most definitely saw what was coming when Nikita Kucherov buried the game-winner with under ten seconds left in regulation.
10:22 on PP. 0:38 at 5-on-3 in the 3rd period. Turns out to be the game. #Isles
— Brendan Burke (@brendanmburke) September 10, 2020
Now they’re down 2-0 in the series as opposed to possibly the series being even with a pivotal game three tomorrow night.
Let’s be honest though, the power play has been the crutch of this Islanders’ club not just this postseason — they’ve gone 10 for 64 — but for years now.
There is something rotten about this team when they get the man-advantage.
Maybe it’s that they don’t shoot enough. Maybe it’s that they try for the perfect play instead of just peppering the opposing goalie. Maybe it’s not having a so-called finisher.
Whichever way you see it, the Isles power play has been broken for way too long now. And it only looks worse every time it cost them in a crucial spot, which was the case in each of the previous three rounds.
“We’re trying to get a little bit too fine, I think,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said after the loss. “Sometimes you’ve got to get a little greasy. I think we were trying to pass it in the net tonight.”
How do they fix it? It’s a viable question.
I’ve always advocated for setting up Ryan Pulock in the “Ovi spot” (just beyond the circle) and just letting him fire away his 100 mile-per-hour shot. Making Nelson or Barzal the shooter could also allow for less passing and more attacking the net. Another thing they MUST do is have better zone entries. It’s been talked about ad nauseam how awful the Isles look at times trying to get past the red line when they are man-up. That still happens on a consistent basis.
All of that though begins with coaching. That’s you Jim Hiller. The Isles brought him in last summer because his specialty was the power play. And sure, there was some improvement this season despite the Islanders having recorded the least amount of power plays in the league. But the same bad habits are still there.
If the Islanders want any chance at coming back in this series, the power play needs to start being smarter. The saying “simple not stupid” is how they should look at it.
Last night the team’s man-advantage doomed them at the most inopportune time. It’s been a theme for too long now.
It needs to change. Otherwise, the Islanders could be seeing this once-promising playoff run come to a very disappointing end.
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