It was only a 61-second sample. But that man-advantage sequence is how the Islanders want their power play to function consistently.
The Islanders face the Rangers on Monday night at the Garden Coliseum after snapping an 0-3-2 skid with Saturday night’s 4-3 home victory over the Penguins on Anders Lee’s power-play winner late in the third period. Lee cleaned up the rebound of defenseman Ryan Pulock’s initial shot from the left after some swift puck movement on the game’s only power-play chance.
Coach Barry Trotz placed a heavy emphasis on special teams work, particularly having a shoot-first mentality, during the team’s unexpected bye week as two games against the Sabres were postponed.
"When things aren’t going well on the power play, that’s the first thing you can look at is trying to attack more, trying to get pucks on net," Pulock said. "That’s where a lot of goals happen, boxing out around the net and someone puts it home."
The Islanders enter Monday 18th in the NHL on the power play at 18.0% (7-for-39) but notched a man-advantage goal in three of their previous four games. Power-play production is at a premium in this shortened 56-game season with most games having a playoff-like tightness to them. The Islanders have been outscored 20-16 at five-on-five through their first 10 games.
Trotz altered his power-play alignment entering the season, with the right-shooting Pulock being placed in the left circle – akin to the "office" Alex Ovechkin occupies for the Capitals – in order to blast off one-timers. Defenseman Noah Dobson quarterbacks that unit along with Lee, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle.
"I like being there," Pulock said. "There’s times, maybe I’m defended when I’m in that spot. There’s someone sitting on me and I might not really be able to get shots off. But I think that allows the other guys more space and time. I can continue to work on it, some of the releases and making the right play. But I’m comfortable to take that shot there whenever I get the opportunity."
Trotz said there are still nuances the coaching staff is working on with Pulock to make him more effective in that shooter’s role.
"It’s not only just getting yourself available and not drifting from certain spots," Trotz said. "The nuances are where your feet are, the angle that you’re shooting the puck. And then, it’s got to be delivered there. If [the puck] goes up top, did you drift too far outside the dots? Too far low?
"It’s just getting Pully to feel comfortable about delivering the puck to the net and getting your feet right," Trotz added. "Expanding your strike zone a little bit because you’re going to have to get the puck through when it’s not necessarily in a perfect spot all the time."
Defensively, Pulock still forms the top pair with Adam Pelech. But the Islanders have not defended as consistently as in Trotz’s first two seasons.
Per naturalstattrick.com, the Islanders ranked 19th in the 31-team NHL both in only getting 47.06% of the high-danger chances in games and having just 84.76% of scoring-chance shots against them not wind up as goals.
"Maybe we haven’t been as consistent in that area as we’d like to be at times," Pulock said. "We’ve had some breakdowns, maybe more often than we have in the past. It’s hard to really pinpoint why exactly. But that’s an area we need to get better at and that’s been our strength over the past few years, playing good defense, not allowing much and smothering teams in the defensive zone."
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