Put the statistics away. Barry Trotz believes the easiest way to judge a power-play’s efficiency is to watch how hard the penalty killers are working.
"If they don’t have to move very much, then you’re not doing a really good job," the Islanders coach said. "I think we’ve been slow, too methodical.
"We haven’t been moving the puck."
The Islanders concluded a season-high, six-game homestand against the Rangers on Sunday night at Nassau Coliseum after losing, 4-1, to their New York rivals on Friday night.
The Islanders went 0-for-1 without a shot on the man advantage on Friday, leaving them 0-for-6 in their last three games, 1-for-13 in the first five games of the homestand and 2-for-23 in a nine-game span.
Included in that was a failed, five-minute first-period power-play in Thursday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers that produced just four shots while yielding three shorthanded chances.
"We’re not putting it in play enough and we’re not moving the puck quick enough," Trotz said. "When you’re standing there and stickhandling, the best thing for a penalty killer is someone stickhandling the puck because you know where everybody is. You get your stick in position, you can tighten your gaps and you know their options because it’s been presented in scouting."
Trotz has altered his power-play personnel, first, by necessity when captain and net-front presence Anders Lee suffered a season-ending torn right anterior cruciate ligament on March 11. Matt Martin eventually took over that role.
Then, the Islanders acquired Smithtown’s Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the Devils on Wednesday. One of Palmieri’s strengths is on the power play and he was used on Brock Nelson’s unit with defenseman Nick Leddy, Josh Bailey and Jean-Gabriel Pageau on Thursday. Against the Rangers on Friday, Trotz switched Palmieri to Mathew Barzal’s unit with defenseman Ryan Pulock, Martin and Jordan Eberle.
Needing roster spots to accommodate the newest Islanders, rookie sharpshooter Oliver Wahlstrom came out of the lineup and off Nelson’s power-play unit.
"You look at his shot," Nelson said of Wahlstrom, who had two of his nine goals on the man advantage. "He’s beat the goalie a couple of times. He can rip it, a wrist shot, a one-timer. He can bring it with some velocity and beat the goalie clean kind of anywhere on the ice. Getting a guy open in space like that is going to be dangerous. I think you can say the same with Palms."
Complicating matters is that the Islanders, concluding a stretch of three games in four nights, have not had a practice to work on special teams since Wednesday’s trade.
That will be rectified with two days of practice likely before the Islanders open a two-game series in Boston on Thursday night.
But the solution is not difficult. The Islanders will work on getting more pucks to the net and not being as "cute."
"I think what was making it successful was just getting pucks to the net and getting tips, bang in goals," Martin said. "Guys crashing the net. Sometimes, on power plays, you can get a little too cute, always trying to make a perfect play for an open-netter. That’s not generally how the puck finds the back of the net."
Nelson agreed the Islanders needed to stop thinking pass and start thinking shots again.
"[Cute], that’s probably how it gets worded," Nelson said. "It’s just trying to make the seam pass or one extra pass when you don’t have to. Everyone out there is a good player. You’ve just got to make the right reads.
"Sometimes it’s best to just keep it simple."
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