Barry Trotz believes offensive production five-on-five has become more difficult with all teams in instant playoff mode in this shortened, 56-game season. That puts more of an onus on the power play to score consistently.
But the coach also believes having a five-on-five approach might be the best way for the Islanders to be more consistent on the man advantage.
"If I said, ‘OK, I’m just going to put five guys on the ice against their four, let’s go score, keep attacking the net,’ we’d probably have more success doing that," Trotz said on Wednesday in a private chat with Newsday. "Sometimes the skill players, they want to get fancy, they want to set up, they want to slow it down, they want to be artistic."
The Islanders next face the Penguins on Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum after home games against the Sabres scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday nights were postponed because of COVID-19 protocols. The Sabres had all their games through at least Monday postponed and their training facility temporarily shut.
Trotz is using the unplanned extra practice time — including Wednesday’s lengthy session at East Meadow — to put an "emphasis" on special teams work.
The Islanders rank 19th on the power play at 15.8% (6-for-38) after going 2-for-18 on their 0-3-2 road trip that concluded with Sunday’s 4-3 overtime loss in Philadelphia.
The Islanders also rank 15th in the 31-team NHL with 50 power-play shots through their first nine games.
"I think we have the personnel," Trotz said. "People will say, you take all your best players and load it up. To me, it’s about mentality. It’s execution and mentality. Sometimes, we’ll have good entries and we’ll move it around and they refuse to shoot it. Or we slow it down so the penalty killers get set up."
Trotz switched defenseman Ryan Pulock, who sets up at the top of the left faceoff circle ala the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin for one-timers, to defenseman Nick Leddy’s unit with Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey and Jean-Gabriel Pageau on Sunday. Defenseman Noah Dobson quarterbacks Mathew Barzal’s unit with Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle, which was joined on Sunday by Austin Czarnik.
Leddy scored a power-play goal 38 seconds into the second period.
"There’s times when we make ourselves dangerous and we get opportunities and we shoot it and we actually score," Trotz said. "There’s other times when we don’t have that mentality where we’re going to shoot it. We’re looking for something better. It’s not necessarily the coach’s vision or my vision, it’s the mentality. Sometimes, you almost want to be selfish, where you get it and say, ‘I’m going to attack the net and then let’s play off of that’.
"When we’re looking for that lay-up in the net, teams are too good," Trotz said. "They react too quickly."
Notes & quotes: Trotz said Anthony Beauvillier (injured reserve/lower body) remains day-to-day but not likely to play on Saturday. "I couldn’t commit to this weekend," Trotz said. "But he is skating and he’s doing his rehab."
Sign up for Newsday’s Islanders texts with a 14-day free trial at newsday.com/islestext.