Isles' defense picking up scoring slack of the forwards
The good: Islanders defensemen have scored three goals across the last two games.
The bad: Islanders forwards have scored one, and that landed in an empty net.
After splitting those games, the defensive-oriented Islanders have 13 left and are just two points back of Metropolitan-leading Washington heading into Thursday night’s game against Montreal at the Coliseum.
There’s no underselling the importance of the defensemen being able to chip in offensively, especially on a team that isn’t a goal-scoring juggernaut.
“When the ‘D’ chip in, that’s how we’re successful,” Barry Trotz said after Wednesday’s practice at Northwell Health Ice Center. “We don’t have one dominant line that you can throw over the boards and go, ‘OK, they’re going to carry us for this week or next week.’ It’s all by committee.”
Still, Trotz said, “We need more goals from our forwards. No question. We’ve got a couple of guys that have been dry for a while here.”
Leo Komarov, for instance, hasn’t scored a goal in the last 21 games. Jordan Eberle and Mathew Barzal have gone 15 and 11 games without one, respectively. Josh Bailey hasn’t scored in the last seven.
Ryan Pulock scored the winner in Monday’s 2-0 win over Columbus. Nick Leddy and Scott Mayfield scored in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to Philadelphia. The defense has five of the Islanders’ 14 goals in their 3-3 start to March. Pulock leads the unit with eight goals. Devon Toews is next with five.
“I think it’s very important when you can kind of as a D-corps help out offensively, take a little pressure off the forwards maybe,” Pulock said. “I think when you look at teams that are having success, they always get some production from their back end.”
Pulock has a very hard shot. He also has a career-high 33 points.
“It’s been a big part of my game kind of my whole life, having that offensive game,” Pulock said.
Thomas Hickey said the defensemen are “still figuring it out” as to when to jump into the play.
“I think it’s a slow learning curve just because we’re defenders first,” Hickey said. “That’s the most important thing. But especially with the way some of the guys can skate and some of the smarts, we’re going to see it more and more. I definitely think we’ve got another level of activation.”
Bailey said that “offensively, you need a five-man attack,” and that scoring by the defensemen “is going to be important” and “can lead to getting wins for you.” So the forward isn’t fretting over who’s getting the goals now.
“I think we’re all just pulling in the same direction,” Bailey said. “At times, it might be different people. That’s a good thing.”