Jack Capuano wants his defensemen to get up in the play and provide offense, and through eight games this season, his defense corps has done that. The defensemen have eight total goals, and each of the six regulars has at least one after Travis Hamonic’s goal in Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
That total leads the league for a team’s defense. The problem for the Islanders, who are tied for the league lead with five regulation losses, is the offense from their forwards, the players who are supposed to provide it more regularly.
Outside of John Tavares and his four goals, the forwards have simply not produced, especially in crucial moments. The team’s last three losses came on goals inside of three minutes to play in regulation of tied games, highlighting the Isles’ inability to push through and finish off games in this first month of the season. They scored twice in each of those games.
Thursday night’s 4-2 loss to the Penguins was particularly galling, with the Islanders convinced that Sidney Crosby delivered an illegal hit on Johnny Boychuk before Crosby netted the winner with 2:25 to go. But the Isles had 37 shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and plenty of chances to make it more than a 1-1 game entering the final period.
“We’re just not getting offense from our forwards right now,” Capuano said after his team fell to 3-5-0. “We’ve got to find a way to score goals if this team wants to win games. End of story.”
That may involve shuffling some forward lines around and separating Tavares from Andrew Ladd for more than the third-period stretch in which Capuano switched up the lines on Wednesday night against the Canadiens. Ladd, who hasn’t scored, seemed snakebitten in the first six games, with a handful of good chances stopped or gone wide. In the last two, he has been out of step and appears to be pressing.
Fellow newcomer Jason Chimera also is without a goal, as is Casey Cizikas. Cal Clutterbuck scored in the opener and hasn’t since. Anders Lee is stuck on one goal.
The Islanders’ power play has goals in each of the past two games but is only 3-for-23 (13 percent) on the season, 23rd in the NHL.
Lee, who scuffled out of the gate last season with three goals in his first 20 games, said no one can afford to get down on himself.
“Then it just starts to snowball, and nothing good can really come from that,” he said. “We’ve had good stretches, good games where we’re generating chances. You have to have confidence that the goals will come.”