There are ebbs and flows to every aspect of a team’s game through the course of an NHL season.
Right now, special teams play is trending in a good direction for the Islanders.
The Islanders continue their seven-game homestand against the Kings on Thursday night at UBS Arena after rallying for a 4-3 win over the Flyers on Tuesday, fueled by, essentially, two power-play goals.
The Islanders killed off the Flyers’ lone power-play chance, and their penalty kill is now 11-for-12 over their last six games.
On Tuesday’s scoresheet, the Islanders’ man advantage was 1-for-4 with seven shots. But, Zach Parise’s third-period winner came five seconds after their final power play expired. The productive performance snapped an 0-for-11 drought over their previous five games.
The Islanders had put together a 10-for-30 stretch on the man advantage over 11 games from Dec. 4-Jan. 13, with one goal in each of the last five games in that run.
"What happens is you have some success on the power play and then you try to add something, or the guys try to overthink it a little bit and they’re doing things that are a little bit outside the box," coach Barry Trotz said. "It’s the ebbs and flows of a season. Teams are looking at us and pre-scouting us. There’s slight adjustments in terms of what our tendencies are."
Five-on-five play tends to get tighter and tighter as an NHL season progresses, meaning special teams can dictate a team’s playoff chances.
And there should be opportunities for special teams to make a difference against the Kings with every point crucial for the Islanders (15-14-6) as they try to use their games in hand to climb back into the playoff hunt.
The Kings (21-16-6), sitting third in the Pacific Division, are 1-3-1 in their last five games after Monday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Their penalty kill is ranked 29th in the NHL at 73.3% (88-for-120), and are 26th in the league on the power play at 16.7% (23-for-138).
The Islanders are 24th on the power play at 17% (16-for-94) after starting the season 5-for-49 (10.2%), and their penalty kill is ranked ninth at 82.8% (77-for-93).
"Sometimes, you feel you get all the bounces and sometimes you feel like you do everything right and you don’t score," Brock Nelson said. "The power play, you’ve just got to stick with it. Be confident. Make your plays."
Trotz’s power-play units have remained, for the most part, steady. Defenseman Noah Dobson quarterbacks the first unit with Mathew Barzal, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom with Anders Lee the net-front presence. Rookie defenseman Robin Salo works on the second unit with forwards Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier, Nelson and Parise digging at the crease.
Once defenseman Ryan Pulock is activated off long-term injured reserve, he’ll likely supplant Salo on the power play. Pulock, out since Nov. 15, is considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury but has yet to resume skating with the Islanders, who did not practice on Wednesday.