The Islanders flew back from California on Monday with only one win from their three-game swing. More crucially, they scored only six goals on opposing goaltenders in the three games, continuing a trend that isn’t sitting well on a team that’s got a few proven scorers.
Leaving out empty-net goals in each of their two wins this year, the Islanders have scored 13 goals in their six games. They are in the upper third of the league in percentage of shots for/against and most of those proven scorers are getting pucks on opposing goaltenders.
Just not past them. Jordan Eberle had seven shots on Darcy Kuemper on Sunday night in Los Angeles and Eberle leads the Islanders with 19 shots on goal, but he’s still looking for his first as an Islander.
His last try should have led to the tying score in the closing seconds. From the right circle, Eberle snapped one that Kuemper deflected right to John Tavares at the left side of the net. Kuemper was out of position and two Kings defenders were desperately trying to reach in and deflect Tavares’ shot towards an open net.
Instead, Tavares shot it back through the crease. The Islanders captain has two goals, both against the Sabres in a 6-3 win, and he seemed to be as lost for answers after Sunday’s defeat as any other Islander.
“Chances have been few and far between, but they’ve gotten their share,” Doug Weight said of his top-line forwards. “When they go in they’ll go in. I think it was a rolling puck. I don’t think he’s fighting anything.”
Tavares usually leads the way on the Islander power play, but that has been a wasteland so far. With new assistant coaches Kelly Buchberger and Scott Gomez in charge, the power play has gone 0-for-20 while surrendering three shorthanded goals; only the Ducks have fared worse, going 0-for-21 so far this season.
On the advantage Sunday when the Kings took a 3-1 lead, the first power-play unit was guilty of trying to force plays through Tavares along the side wall. The Kings had either a defenseman or a forward shading towards Tavares and easily broke up pass after pass.
That failure was compounded by the second unit when Josh Ho-Sang, who has the main puck-carrying responsibility for the second group, tried a pass for Johnny Boychuk that was easily intercepted by Anze Kopitar to start the play that finished with Drew Doughty beating Jaroslav Halak.
Nick Leddy and Boychuk, the Islanders’ two leading scorers among defensemen the last three seasons, have combined for one point so far. No Islanders defenseman has scored a goal yet. So there are more culprits than just Tavares.
But the season can move along faster than you think, as the Islanders learned last season. These funks can’t linger.
“It starts with shooting the puck,” Weight said. “We have some guys that can fire it and we have to start moving it around a little quicker and firing pucks on net.”