Buoyed by the vote of confidence that he received from Islanders general manager Garth Snow on Wednesday, Jack Capuano is returning the favor by putting his confidence in Snow, or at least his track record, for Friday night’s game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins at Barclays Center.
The Islanders are set to roll with a new top line composed entirely of players Snow drafted in the first round. Ryan Strome, the No. 5 overall pick in 2011, will join 2009 top choice John Tavares and the No. 9 pick in 2008 Josh Bailey in an effort to spark a team that has scored only 13 goals in losing six of its last seven games, the most recent a 4-0 drubbing by the Lightning at home on Monday.
“We’ve got to put some skill onto one line,” Capuano said after practice at the Northwell Health Ice Center on Thursday. “Not that the guys that we’ve had there aren’t, but just trying to look at some history, guys that can make some plays, get some offense for our hockey team.”
Recent history is not so good for Bailey, Strome and Tavares as a trio: in 129 minutes of 5-on-5 action together last season they were on the ice for three Islanders goals and nine goals against, according to puckalytics.com. Putting Strome with Tavares, at least, has been a productive idea: in 506 minutes last season, they were on ice for a 24-22 Isles scoring margin at 5-on-5, with a 52.7 percent Corsi rate — better than Tavares’ 50.7 without Strome and Strome’s 47.6 without Tavares. That indicator of puck possession should bode well.
“When you play with a guy like that, a lot of guys might get intimidated, and you want to let go and give them the puck,” Strome said. “When you take charge, and you play your own game and demand the puck, it’s going to create space for everyone. As much as John pushes everyone . . . if you play like that alongside him, it’s only going to push him, too.”
The Islanders will have to push each other quite a bit against a Penguins team sure to be angry after a 7-1 embarrassment on Wednesday in Washington.
“I’m sure they’ll be well prepared no matter what the circumstance,” Tavares said. “We’ll have to play well and be at our best to give ourselves a chance at a W.”