Searching for a remedy to the one consistent problem that has haunted them throughout their 11-game losing streak, the Islanders hope a new system can solve their scoring woes.
Unlike former coach Scott Gordon’s innovative and aggressive-- albeit complex--style of play, the Islanders are taking a more basic approach under new interim head coach Jack Capuano.
Capuano has simplified the team’s system to give his players—especially the forwards—more freedom to make plays. Although guidelines have been established and defensive responsibility is still stressed, Capuano has urged the team to rely on their instincts and hockey sense when assessing options on the ice.
“There are a lot more decisions left up to the player,” said last year’s leading scorer Matt Moulson. “the reason I like playing like that is there’s so much more freedom.”
“It allows us to be creative and make plays. It opens up things in the offensive zone instead of shrinking it,” said Tavares. “It’s a lot of read-and-react. We have a lot of smart hockey players here and Jack gives us the freedom in reading and using our instincts. It allows guys with abilities to make a play.”
Tavares was quick to point out, however, that he didn’t feel inhibited by Gordon.
“I don’t think I was restricted. Scott was great with me and he always told me he never wanted to take away my creativity,” Tavares said. “It was a real aggressive system and we were an aggressive team, but we just went through a tough stretch where we couldn’t find any answers.”
Moulson and Tavares both scored for the Islanders in Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay, a game in which the Islanders registered 36 shots on goal, their second highest total this season.
The top line of Moulson, Tavares and P.A. Parenteau combined for 10 of those 36; they hope that output foreshadows better production in the near future. The team currently ranks 29th in the league with a paltry 2.17 goals per game.
“I think 5-on-5 we generated more on offense than we did in the previous 10 games,” Parenteau said.
In addition to giving more options offensively—designed to foster more creativity among the team's skill players—Capuano has also scaled back the forecheck and reverted to a more traditional defensive scheme, employing a 1-2-2 neutral zone trap.
The team will now station one defenseman in front of the net and pinch less along the boards.
“With Gordon’s system, it was a little more aggressive. You had to be on your toes and try to make reads a bit more,” veteran Mike Mottau said. “This is a little more traditional defensive zone coverage just in the matter of realizing when to take a chance.