The Islanders’ roster has taken some hits, but looks to keep the winning streak going.
The New York Islanders have won in nine games in a row and are on an absolute tear. They faced their first great challenge when captain Anders Lee went down with a lower-body injury that would keep him out indefinitely. They were able to overcome this obstacle and kept winning. They played Sunday’s game without Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who was placed on the COVID-19 protocol list, but he did return to the lineup for Tuesday’s game. Unfortunately defenseman Noah Dobson, who missed Sunday’s game after getting placed on the protocol list as well, remained out on Tuesday. The Islanders would be taking on another red-hot team, the Washington Capitals. This wouldn’t be an easy task and the Islanders would need all hands on deck to win this game.
Barry Trotz switched Bellows and Jordan Eberle on the first line, moving them to opposite wings. Austin Czarnik, who was in the lineup to replace Pageau on Sunday, remained in there but was moved to Pageau’s left on the third line. Leo Komarov was out. Trotz continued to rotate goalies, and Semyon Varlamov got the start in net. Other than these changes, the lineup remained the same.
1st period: Darn this Samsonov
The Islanders were pretty perfect in the first period, generating more than one fantastic scoring chance. Unfortunately Capitals goalie, Ilya Samsonov, was as sharp as could be and didn’t let anything get past him. It’s nearly impossible to complain about the way the Islanders played in the first and would be bound to find scoring luck in the next two periods if they keep this.
2nd period: It’s not ideal
Remember what we said about the Islanders continuing to play this way? That wouldn’t be the case. The Islanders had a rough period in the second and came out of those 20 minutes down 2-0. Mathew Barzal’s lack of discipline continues to be a problem. He took an unnecessary cross-checking penalty that led to a Washington power play goal scored by Alex Ovechkin, who passed Phil Esposito to move into sixth all-time. At the buzzer, Scott Mayfield got into it with Richard Panik, meaning the Capitals would be on the power play to start the third.
3rd period: Streak: broken
The Islanders were doomed in this game because of a lack of discipline as well as an off night for the penalty killers. The Capitals went on to score another power play goal to take a 3-0 lead. They did get a power play goal off the stick of Oliver Wahlstrom, who continues to be a surprisingly valuable player to this team, especially on the man-advantage.
This loss shouldn’t cause any worry. It came against a team that’s practically just as good as the Islanders and was their first in nine games. That’s already impressive, but is even more so when we consider the fact the Islanders have been running riot in the hardest division in the league and without some of their important players. As long as they don’t let this mark the beginning of a bad stretch, then they’ll be fine.
Key Moment: Barzal at it again
The key moment of the game was Barzal’s reckless penalty in the second period. The Islanders were already down 1-0 at that point and it was a meaningless penalty to take. Even Barzal knew it. The Capitals ended up scoring a goal on that power play and everything went downhill from there. Frustration built up, leading to a Mayfield penalty to end the second that also led to a Capitals power play goal in the third.
Barzal has had a serious problem staying out of the penalty box all season, and Trotz knows that. For this reason, he benched Barzal to begin the third and the young centerman didn’t take his first shift of the period until over eight minutes in. The fact Trotz didn’t let his best player come off the bench until almost halfway through the last period of the game even though his team was down 2-0 shows how significant of an issue this is becoming and how important it is that Barzal become disciplined sooner rather than later. The team committed four penalties today, so not all the blame can be placed on Barzal, but his lack of control is preventing him from taking the next step. His penalty in this game was arguably the point at which everything slipped away and he can’t be making mistakes like this later in the season and during the playoffs, especially.
Player of the game: Adam Pelech
one of the best and most underrated defenseman in hockey, Adam Pelech was New York’s best player. Before this season, Pelech was praised for being one of the best defensive defensemen in the NHL. That’s still the case, but he’s added some impressive offense to that this season. Pelech had a poor offensive game against the Capitals, like practically all of his teammates, but was fantastic defensively. What he does day in and day out for his team in his own zone is invaluable.
Pelech’s numbers: 18:34, 59.26 CF%, 0.01 iXG, 0.43 xGF, 0.06 xGA, 0 GF, 0 GA, -0.53 offensive score, and 1.57 defensive score.
Stats are courtesy of Hockey Stat Cards and Natural Stat Trick.