PHILADELPHIA — The Islanders certainly understand one of the key factors to becoming a strong playoff contender is getting consistent offensive production from their defensemen.
So, consider Saturday’s 6-1 win over the reeling Flyers at Wells Fargo Center a decent start down that path.
Adam Pelech had a goal and an assist, his defense partner Johnny Boychuk added an assist and the six defensemen combined for nine of the Islanders’ 22 shots.
“Points from defensemen are generally a big indicator for successful teams and that’s something that definitely we’re looking to add into our game a bit more,” said Pelech, who notched his first points of the season. “It was nice to get some of that today.”
Scott Mayfield has a goal and four assists in seven games which, after Saturday, is no longer more than the six other defensemen combined, though it’s still close: Pelech (one goal, one assist), Boychuk (two assists), Ryan Pulock (one assist), Luca Sbisa (one assist), Nick Leddy (no points) and Thomas Hickey (no points).
“You need production from your defense,” coach Barry Trotz said. “You look at the best offensive teams in the NHL, their D are always up there in terms of numbers.”
Trotz’s point is well taken just looking at the top five scorers among NHL defensemen heading into Saturday’s play.
John Carlson, who helped lead Trotz’s Capitals to the Stanley Cup last season, had five goals and nine assists in his first nine games while Morgan Rielly had four goals and 10 assists in 10 games for the Maple Leafs, who got off to a 7-3-0 start.
Brent Burns, the former Norris Trophy winner as the league’s top defenseman, was third in scoring with two goals and 10 assists in 10 games for the Sharks, who were leading the Pacific Division. Kris Letang, part of two Cup winners with the Penguins, had four goals and seven assists in eight games and Thomas Chabot had three goals and eight assists for the Senators, who got off to a surprising 4-4-1 start after trading away former Norris winner Erik Karlsson.
“We probably don’t have that,” Trotz said. “There’s not a Burns or a (Drew) Doughty or a John Carlson. We’ve got good people back there. But we don’t have maybe a dynamic guy offensively. Leddy is a guy that really light up the puck and skate but he’s never put up huge numbers. So, we’re just going to have to chip away and make sure everybody gets numbers from the back end.”