Goaltending and Defense Will be the Islanders' Downfall
By Patrick Hoffman
In the beginning of the season, the New York Islanders, along with the likes of the New Jersey Devils, Vegas Golden Knights, and Tampa Bay Lightning, were the talk of the National Hockey League.
The Islanders stormed off to an excellent start and were one of the surprise teams in the Eastern Conference. They were scoring a ton of goals and doing enough to pick-up two points on a nightly basis.
Fast forward to now (January 17, 2018) and things are a tad bit different. As of this writing, the team is currently one point out of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference (23-19-4 for 50 points) and is having a lot of trouble in one particular area of their game.
What could end up being the downfall for this team this season and could prevent them from either getting to the Stanley Cup playoffs or playing well in them is the play of their goaltending and their defense.
We'll start with the club's goaltenders. In looking at their statistics, it is easy to see just how bad they have been.
Jaroslav Halak, the team's supposed starting masked man, has not played like one. In 29 games, the 32-year-old netminder is 13-13-2 with a 3.22 goals against average and a .906 save percentage (As of this writing on January 17, 2018).
These are numbers that you do not want from your starter. A team's starting goaltender should be one that is consistent and plays the way a starter should play and right now, Halak is not cutting it.
His back-up, Thomas Greiss, has been dreadful this season. In his previous two seasons with the club, Greiss played great and posted great numbers and was even rewarded for his fine play when the team signed him to a 3-year contract extension last January.
This season, Greiss has not returned the favor. In 21 games, Greiss is 10-6-2 with a 3.89 goals against average and a .866 save percentage.
These kinds of numbers from both of their goaltenders has not done the club any favors this season. As of this writing (January 17, 2018), the team has a -9 goal differential, is last in the league in goals allowed (167 goals against in 46 games), and is also last in the league in goals against per game at 3.63.
While the team's goaltenders are the main culprits, it is clear that the team's defense as a whole is struggling. Game in and game out, they are allowing too many quality scoring opportunities, giving up the puck a lot, and missing key assignments that are leading to goals against.
If this team wants to make the playoffs, they will need to shape up both their defensive game and goaltending. If they are unable to do that, it will be another playoffless season for the Isles.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.