Defense justifiably remains New York Islanders head coach Doug Weight’s biggest concern this season.
With his defense struggling and his goalies overrun, Islanders rookie head coach Doug Weight is seeking something — anything — to spark his blueline.
While the Islanders’ offense ranks second in scoring, the defense has allowed the most goals in the league. This has precipitated a 2-5-1 stretch, which dropped New York from second to fifth in the Metropolitan.
Speaking to Arthur Staple of Newsday following an optional practice on Friday, Weight emphasized that he is seeking consistency from his defensemen.
“We’ve proven we’re going to score goals and have opportunities, that’s a good thing,” said Weight. “To me, we need some more meat and potatoes. We need more predictability, we need more mash.
“We’ve got to get back to that 200-foot, hard game, and that feeds our top guys. We need some guys to be professional, get pucks in. Professionalism, stability. We need to be able to pour guys over the boards and play a harder game.”
Weight, who took over for Jack Capuano in January 2016, said the coaching staff would continue to seek out solutions. The Islanders were never expected to be in the upper echelon on defense, but they weren’t slated to be this subpar, either.
Jaroslav Hálak, the veteran netminder who signed a four-year deal with the team in May 2014, concludes that defensive zone turnovers have caused much of the team’s struggles.
“Sometimes I think we just have to make the simple play, get the puck out of our zone when we can instead of trying to do a little too much,” Halak said.
“Especially at the start of the game. We give the other team a lot of confidence if we turn the puck over and give them chances right from the start.”
The Islanders have scored first in only 34 percent of contests; they have an 11-0-0 record when doing so. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen very often. New York is 6-10-0 when giving up the game’s first goal.
Weight has had some difficulty finding pairings that work. The Isles traded longtime defenseman Travis Hamonic to Calgary this offseason, which created a crucial void on the second pair. Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy have quietly enjoyed career years, but the same cannot be said about the rest of the unit.
The Islanders have experimented with a number of defensemen — Calvin de Haan, Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield, Thomas Hickey, Dennis Seidenberg, Ryan Pulock — to no avail. Only time will tell if anything improves on that front.
Meanwhile, Thomas Greiss has been subpar between the pipes. Over his last four starts, the German netminder has allowed 20 goals on 118 shots — easily the worst stretch of his 9-year career, and one of the worst spells in recent memory. His 3.81 goals-against average ranks last among all qualified goaltenders.
Still, Weight continues to have faith. “I feel good about both our goalies,” Weight said. “No one else does. I don’t really care.”
Erik Karlsson “represents a perfect Islanders opportunity,” writes Brett Cyrgalis for the NY Post. While it’s rooted solely in speculation, Cyrgalis believes that Garth Snow has “some of the most coveted assets stockpiled, and he seems primed to use them to help this team get over the hump.” This seems… rather far-fetched. Karlsson, who has a no-trade list, is the Senators’ top defenseman.
Joshua Ho-Sang was sent to Bridgeport on Saturday ahead of the Islanders’ matchup with the Los Angeles Kings. The 21-year-old is scoreless in his last six games, racking up a -6 plus-minus rating in that period. He is still immensely talented, but with the Isles on a mini-skid and Ho-Sang turning the puck over like it’s nobody’s business, this seems like the right move.