The Islanders’ braintrust of Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz frequently point out it’s not how many goals the team can score, it’s scoring more than the opponent.
Still goals are, well, the goal of hockey, and, lately, they’ve been scarce for the Islanders.
They had scored one or fewer in three of their previous four games entering Sunday night’s match against the Flyers to conclude a three-game road trip. They had scored two or fewer in six of their previous seven games and Trotz is not ignoring that the production has dipped.
"It has and it will during the ebbs and flows of the season," the coach said. "There’s going to be times when you’re scoring lots of goals and they’re coming easy and there’s times during the season they’re going to come a little more difficult. Right now, they’ve been coming a little more difficult for us."
The Islanders opened the road trip with back-to-back losses in Boston, 4-1 on Thursday night and 3-0 on Friday, the third time this season they’ve been shut out.
"You have those kinds of games sometimes, it just doesn’t really seem to go in," Anthony Beauvillier said. "We’re not really too worried about it. If we play the way we have to play, I think we’re going to have success. Bring pucks to the net, that’s the main thing. I don’t think it’s really something in our head right now. We want to play well and we want to score goals."
There are certainly factors that lead to the scarcity of goals. For one, games are naturally tighter now in the thick of the playoff push. The Islanders have 11 regular-season games remaining after Sunday.
"It’s tight hockey, that’s for sure," Casey Cizikas said. "Teams aren’t really giving up much and they’re playing extremely hard. It’s what you want going down the stretch and going into the playoffs. This is a good test for us game in and game out because every single game has playoff implications.
"We’ve had chances. [Friday], the first period we came out really hard and their goalie made some really big saves and that’s kind of the way it’s going right now for us. They’re not coming easy. So, we have to make sure we’re hard on the puck, we get to those dirty areas, we get pucks to the net and we don’t pass up on those opportunities."
The power play has not been a significant contributor of late, certainly another reason for the reduced production.
The Islanders were a combined 0-for-8 against the Bruins on the man advantage and, entering Sunday, had gone 1-for-17 over their previous six games.
"We’re a team that relies on five-on-five," Trotz said. "We’re not a team that relies on our power play to be a difference maker because it hasn’t in three years."
Losing top-line left wing Anders Lee to a season-ending right knee injury, even with the subsequent acquisitions of top-nine forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the Devils, has also been a factor.
The Islanders averaged 3.0 goals with Lee in the lineup. That dipped to 2.6 goals over the first 17 games of Lee’s absence, even including an 8-4 win over the Capitals on April 1.
Lee also had a net-front presence on the power play.
Beauvillier noted it has been tough to develop power-play chemistry with shifting personnel lately.
And Trotz said the power play must improve, even if it’s not relied upon.
"It’s got to be an element that doesn’t lose us games," Trotz said. "Maybe it can win us games. But, at least, keep us even in games."
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