Doug Weight is certainly not against shot-measuring statistics like Corsi or Fenwick. He said in training camp he wasn’t as concerned with keeping shots down as keeping good scoring chances down, so he’s wanted to adjust the way his team plays in the defensive zone.
Through 10 games (entering Saturday night’s game here against the Predators), the numbers say Weight is achieving his goal.
According to the website Natural Stat Trick, the Isles are 11th in the league for score-adjusted Corsi percentage – that means they’ve generated a little over half the total shot attempts at five on five.
They are 20th in shots on goal percentage at 48.3, however, and have allowed 33.9 shots on goal per game, tied for sixth most in the league. And what the website measures as high-danger scoring chances, the Islanders generate 56 percent of those so far this season, which is fourth in the league.
And an Isles team that has been in the top seven in blocked shots in the league the last four seasons is now tied for 18th in the early going. The emphasis is no longer on packing tighter into shooting lanes, but clearing them and being aggressive to retrieve pucks around the perimeter in the defensive zone.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey by any stretch but as far as our chances, we’re in the plus by quite a good number,” Weight said. “I feel we do have improvements to make but we address those every day. (Thursday) night is a good example. (Minnesota) had six or seven chances on the power play, I think we held them to 17 or 18 total – that’s a pretty good night. The shorthanded breakaway can’t happen, but five on five we’ve been pretty tight.”
There are other variables that contribute to success or failure, obviously, and a power play that has been as disturbingly poor as the Isles’ has through 10 games plays a part. But the reason most of the advanced statistics are compiled at even strength is because that’s the way the majority of games are played.
Calvin de Haan has become one of the premier shot-blockers in the league but he likes the adjustments. “I think we’ve been good in our own end,” said de Haan, who was fourth in the league last season with 190 blocks and has just 18 through 10 games this year. “The message from the coaches is really get the puck out of our end any way you can, that we just want to be in our zone as little as possible. There’s still a need to get in front of a shot when it’s a great chance or against a team like San Jose, where all they’re looking for is deflections.”
GOALTENDING ROTATION CONTINUES
With Jaroslav Halak getting the start here on Saturday, the Isles continued alternating netminders through the first 11 games. Only the Sabres also have two goaltenders with at least five starts so far this season and it’s fair to say Buffalo has done so out of desperation rather than by plan.
Halak entered his sixth start having allowed three goals in each of his first five and Thomas Greiss has allowed 11 goals in two starts and six in the other three combined.
“It’s kind of worked out to where they’ve fallen into the spots of playing where they should,” Weight said. “I think it will start to maybe define itself as we go here, maybe sooner rather than later. Everything leaves you wanting more but they’ve been prepared and they’ve been good so far.”
With three sets of road back-to-backs in November, both goaltenders will get their share again. But Weight would love to see one or both of his goaltenders try and seize a greater share of the playing time.
“I just take it day by day,” Halak said. “Whenever I get a call, try to do my best. I’m not trying to focus on how many, why didn’t I play, stuff like that. That’s my focus and we’ll see. It’s early in the season, it’s a long season and I’m sure we will need both of us down the stretch.”
The Isles have allowed a player’s first NHL goal four times already this season: Sonny Milano and Pierre-Luc Dubois on opening night in Columbus and Luke Kunin and Zack Mitchell on Thursday in Minnesota.
Some fans feel all the Isles do is allow first NHL goals, but with all the debuts the previous three seasons, the Islanders allowed 11 players’ first ones. The strange part? Only four of those 11 are still in the NHL.
So maybe that’s why it feels so common – it’s not exactly Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews doing the celebrating of that first NHL goal.
First NHL goals vs. Isles, 2014-17
Kyle Rau, Panthers, Nov. 12, 2016
Anton Blidh, Bruins, Dec. 20, 2016
Evan Rodrigues, Sabres, April 9, 2016
*Oskar Sundqvist, Penguins, April 2, 2016
*Brandon Manning, Flyers, March 21, 2016
*Ben Hutton, Canucks, Jan, 17, 2016
Bobby Farnham, Devils, Oct. 31, 2015
Joonas Kemppainen, Bruins, Oct. 23, 2015
Nikolay Goldobin, Sharks, Oct. 17, 2015
*Nick Shore, Kings, March 25, 2015
Ryan Hamilton, Oilers, Feb. 10, 2014
*Currently in NHL