The Islanders need to do better in division games. They need to do better on the power play.
Those are not separate issues.
The third-place Islanders will continue a stretch of four straight games against Metropolitan Division opponents when they face the first-place Capitals on Saturday afternoon to conclude a three-game homestand at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum. They will visit the fourth-place Hurricanes on Sunday.
On Thursday night, they went 0-for-5 on the power play in a 3-2 loss to the Rangers as Chris Kreider scored the man-advantage winner with 24.6 seconds to go after Derick Brassard cross-checked Jesper Fast with 53.5 seconds remaining. The teams will play for the third time in nine days on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden after the Rangers won, 6-2, at the Garden on Monday night.
“My biggest concern right now is we can’t look back,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ve got to look forward the whole time. We’ve got a big test coming up. We’ve got Washington here and then Carolina. Those are two pretty good opponents. So it’s a tough stretch, a lot of divisional stuff. A lot of points on the line.”
The Islanders are 8-6-1 against division opponents, not a horrible record among a strong group of eight teams.
But they are 1-for-22 on the power play in their last 12 games and have gone 5-6-1 in that stretch. That includes losing four of six games to division opponents and going 1-for-13 with the man advantage in those six games.
The Islanders took 40 shots Thursday night but managed only eight on net in 10 minutes of power-play time. Jordan Eberle did whack one off the crossbar from close range at 4:08 of the third period, eight seconds before defenseman Tony DeAngelo sprung out of the penalty box and gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
“I think we had some chances,” Trotz said. “I thought when we had our best chances, their goaltender [Alexandar Georgiev] stepped up, and those guys become your best penalty-killers. We’ll look at it thoroughly and reassess it again, as we always do.”
So far, it’s hard to say that any changes the Islanders tried to implement on the power play after parting ways with assistant coach Scott Gomez and bringing in Jim Hiller from Toronto to run the man advantage have been overly effective.
The Islanders ranked 29th in the NHL on the power play at 14.5% last season and have improved to 21st this season at 18.3%.
Too often, they spend too much time passing the puck around the perimeter and not getting shots on net. Getting more from the power play will be crucial to a playoff push.
Said Anders Lee, “We’ve got a great division and it’s going to be tight the whole way out.”
Notes & quotes: Center Otto Koivula was reassigned to Bridgeport.