SAN JOSE, Calif. — An uptick in power-play chances for the Islanders typically would go hand-in-hand with increased production from captain Anders Lee, consistently among the team leaders in power-play points in past seasons.
Except that has yet to be the case this season. Lee had zero points on the power play through the Islanders’ first 20 games.
“Honestly, it’s just the way it’s going,” Lee said. “Our unit, we’ve got to get back to getting the puck to the net a little bit and crashing down. It’s going to start going in. If you’re getting your shots, getting your opportunities, you might have a stretch where they’re not going in and you’re not getting the bounce. But you’ve got to continue what you’re doing and those opportunities will start going your way.”
Lee had gone five games without a point as the Islanders opened a three-game California swing on Saturday night against the Sharks at SAP Center. The Islanders set a franchise mark with at least a point in 16 straight games (15-0-1) when they beat the Penguins, 4-3, in overtime on Thursday night at Barclays Center.
The Islanders were 2-for-7 on the man advantage in that game, the most power-play chances they’ve drawn since Barry Trotz became coach.
Lee took four shots on Thursday, one shy of Brock Nelson’s team high after taking a team-best five shots in Tuesday night’s 5-4 overtime win at Pittsburgh. He also had five shots in a 4-3 shootout win at Philadelphia this past Saturday.
“A little bit,” Lee said when asked if he felt snake-bit. “If you’re getting your chances, things are going the right way. I felt that I’ve had some pretty good spots lately. We’re winning hockey games so the pain of a little bit of that is very much relieved.”
Lee was on the ice as linemate Mathew Barzal set up defenseman Scott Mayfield’s first-period goal on Thursday. He was also on ice for Josh Bailey’s even-strength goal at Pittsburgh.
“I think he’s had some good chances, good looks,” said Barzal, who had three goals and five assists in a six-game span entering Saturday night’s game. “I love having him on my left wing. He wins battles down low. He forechecks hard and goes to the net and does some of the dirty things maybe I don’t have to do as much. For me, he opens up a lot of room down low. It’s going to come.”
Lee, in the first season of a seven-year, $49 million deal, had five goals and five assists in his first 20 games after notching 28 goals and 23 assists last season. He had a career-high 40 goals with 22 assists in 2017-18.
He’s been used on a power-play unit with defensemen Devon Toews and Nick Leddy, linemate Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey. But Barzal’s unit with defenseman Ryan Pulock and Derick Brassard, Anthony Beauvillier and Nelson have been on the ice to start more man advantages.
The Islanders’ 44 power-play chances through their first 20 games were the fewest in the NHL, 13 behind the nearest team and 57 off the league lead.
But the opportunities were coming more frequently. Before the Islanders had seven power-play chances on Thursday, they had gotten three in each of their preceding four games.
“When we’re playing our game, we’re getting pucks deep and forechecking,” Barzal said. “Guys are going to get toed down a little more if we have the puck a little more. The first few games we didn’t have the puck as much. We’ve just been playing hard and guys are holding onto the puck and drawing holds and hooks.”