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Islanders players lament defensive struggles

Johnny Boychuk #55, John Tavares #91 and Nick

Johnny Boychuk #55, John Tavares #91 and Nick Leddy #2 of the New York Islanders look on after the Carolina Hurricanes scored late in the third period at Barclays Center on Sunday, Mar. 18, 2018. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The postseason will come and go without the Islanders for the second straight year. It doesn’t take a hockey expert to know why they began their exit meetings Sunday at Northwell Health Ice Center and started packing their stuff for the trip to the offseason.

This was the worst defensive team in the NHL.

“We have a good team, and not to be in the playoffs, it’s just disappointing,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “We just let up too many goals. We scored enough, but there just wasn’t any defense.

“I think just the compete level should be better and playing in our system and not straying away from it. We strayed away from it all year. It’s very noticeable when we play our game that we usually come out with the right results instead of letting up 50 shots and six goals per game. It’s just brutal.”

The Islanders yielded 293 goals, the most by any team since the 2006-07 season. Their penalty-killing unit had a 73.2- percent success rate, the lowest by any team since the 1988-89 season. Their goalies faced the most shots in the league and didn’t stop enough of them.

“We made it tough on them,” left wing Anders Lee said. “Goals are scored because there are five players and a goalie out there. So we’re all responsible.”

There could be changes coming to the last line of defense. Top goalie Jaroslav Halak, soon to be 33, owned a 3.19 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage in 54 games. Christopher Gibson, 25, had a 3.65 GAA and .908 save percentage in eight starts after arriving from Bridgeport. Both are unrestricted free agents. Halak said he’s “open to a new deal.”

Thomas Greiss, who is 32 and has two years left on his three-year, $10-million deal, struggled at times across 27 games and finished with a high 3.82 goals-against average and a low .892 save percentage.

“It’s not like I can’t do it anymore,” he said. “Overall, I feel good about my game. I had a bunch of good games at the end of the year.”

New York Sports