Nothing has come easily for the New York Islanders’ power play unit this season, after ranking in the top-10 of the league in 2017-18.
On Feb. 9, 2018, the New York Islanders were trailing the Detroit Red Wings 5-2 with 6:33 remaining in the third period when Tyler Bertuzzi was given a 5-minute match penalty for a slash on Cal Clutterbuck.
The Islanders then proceeded to score four goals in 3:37 to send the game into overtime.
“In incredible fashion, the Islanders make them pay,” exclaimed color commentator Butch Goring. “When shooting the puck, it’s amazing to see what happens.”
Last season, the Islanders had the sixth-best power play unit in the league. This season … not so much.
Last year, the Islanders’ power play was the one saving grace. With contributions from captain John Tavares, Calder Trophy winner Mathew Barzal and All-Star Josh Bailey, the Islanders were one of the best teams in the league on the man advantage.
Through 28 games this season, the Islanders rank 27th in the league in power play percentage, converting just 15.1 of their tries. In the past 10 games, the Islanders are 1-for-23 on the man advantage. Since Nov. 1, when they defeated the Penguins 3-2 in the shootout, the Islanders are just 5-for-52 on the power play.
“What we tried to do with our power play is get it a reset and give it some of the foundational stuff that we probably got away from,” head coach Barry Trotz told Newsday’s Andrew Gross after the club’s 6-2 loss to Pittsburgh last Thursday. “We’re just trying to rebuild it, give it some confidence and go forward.”
Confidence issues are at least partially culpable for the team’s recent slide.
Systemic flaws likely account for the other shortcomings.
For starters, the personnel deployments have been atypical. Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck has scored 211 points over a 12-year playing career, including just 14 on the man advantage. Yet under Trotz’s system, Clutterbuck has garnered significant playing time on the second power play — playing time that has resulted in just one goal and zero assists.
Clutterbuck logs nearly as many power play minutes per game as 24-year-old defenseman Ryan Pulock, who owns a howitzer of a shot and is perhaps best equipped to anchor the man advantage. Pulock scored three power-play goals in his final nine games under Doug Weight, but hasn’t yet been featured in a prominent role under Barry Trotz.
Trotz doesn’t have too many options in the personnel department, but the recent call-up of Josh Ho-Sang could give the Isles a much-needed spark. In addition, Trotz could plug Anthony Beauvillier on the man advantage, in an attempt to wake him and the man advantage up.
Quickly, though. The Islanders face the Penguins, Golden Knights and Red Wings in the upcoming week, and they’ll need their power play to be up to par to stay in contention.