ANAHEIM, Calif. — The numbers don’t always tell the whole story, but in the Islanders’ case, they do shed some light on why they’re just 1-2-1 after four games following Wednesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Ducks.
The Isles have piled up 141 shots on goal, 83 in their last two games. They are generating 54.6 percent of the shots taken at even strength, according to Corsica Hockey, good for eighth in the NHL. All but one of their current regulars is starting his shift in the offensive zone more than half the time, according to Hockey Reference.
Those are all good indicators that the Islanders, as Doug Weight and his staff have preached from the outset of training camp, have the puck more often than not and are playing in the opposing zone more often than not.
So how did the Isles get here, with just three points in four games?
“We gotta score,” Weight said, betraying a bit of frustration late Wednesday night.
He was speaking about the 0-for-15 power play, which threw lots of pucks on Ducks goaltender John Gibson but could not break through.
“When you’re 4-for-16, 4-for-20, you can look at tonight and say you did some good things, you had some momentum,” Weight said. “But we gotta score.”
Brock Nelson had both Islander goals on Wednesday with two assists from Josh Ho-Sang, whose speed rush in the third pushed the Anaheim defense back and cleared space to start the play that Nelson finished to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Ho-Sang is among five Islanders, according to Hockey Reference, who are generating over 60 percent of the even-strength shot attempts when on the ice. Mathew Barzal is at 58.4 percent. None of the other five are John Tavares (he’s at 57.3 percent), which also is a good sign.
“I think parts of our game are really coming along and there’s obviously some areas we can clean up,” Tavares said. “It’s four games in so there’s no reason to feel panic or not stick together.”
Perhaps the only disquieting thing about Wednesday — aside from not breaking through on the power play — was Jaroslav Halak’s game. He left a juicy rebound off a mild shot from Josh Manson that went past Nick Leddy and right to Andrew Cogliano for an easy put-back 37 seconds in, and Patrick Eaves’ third-period goal got under Halak’s arm, a stoppable shot that proved to be the game winner.
Both Halak and Thomas Greiss, who was sharp in Monday’s shootout loss to the Blues, will get a chance this weekend, when the Isles play back-to-backs in San Jose and Los Angeles.
There is frustration around this team, but not the bewilderment that set in on this California swing last November, when the Islanders eked out a 14-round shootout victory here against the Ducks before surrendering winning goals in the final three minutes of regulation losses to the Kings and Sharks to drop to 6-10-4 on the season, essentially dooming their lottery-bound fate.
“I think we’re playing well in the neutral zone the last few games,” Tavares said. “That’s helping us keep the puck out of our own end, which is how we want to play. We just need to convert on some opportunities when we get them.”