Such is the Islanders’ current predicament that scoring a single goal feels like a mark of progress.
Here is the situation for the Metropolitan Division’s bottom-dwellers after Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Rangers:
Their three-goal streak at UBS Arena has seen them score three goals. Andy Andreoff’s third period ended at 3:32 on Wednesday. The player who leads the team in goals — Brock Nelson — is on IR for the next three to five weeks. The Islanders finished Wednesday’s game with six power-play opportunities, but they could not score on the man-advantage, bringing their November total to 1-for-27.
“We’re gonna need a special-teams goal, a power-play goal, a five-on-five timely goal,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We’re gonna need those moments after you score a goal, that next shift we can’t have them score.”
This problem isn’t new but it led to a familiar result: a 7th straight loss. Each loss was by at least three goals.
You can argue all you like about whether the game should have been played in COVID-19 protocol with seven Islanders. It doesn’t matter what the standings say. The Islanders currently stand at 5-9-2. And it was the top-line players — not the call-ups — who Trotz demanded more production from Wednesday.
“We’ve got some guys that are dry and we’re getting on to 15, 16 games,” Trotz said. “It’s hard to win hockey games when we’re a little bit depleted, I think everybody knows that. So you have to get people involved in producing. We ask them to be very responsible and take care of the puck on both sides, but we’re gonna need some production.”
That would be a reference to Kyle Palmieri (one goal), Zach Parise (zero goals) and the Identity Line (two combined goals — both Casey Cizikas).
“It’s tough,” Cizikas said when asked about the offensive struggles. “We’re working. That’s the thing is we’re working hard, we’re trying to get in those spots. We’re trying to get on those rebounds and they’re just not falling for us right now. I think that’s the frustrating thing is guys are working, guys are trying.”
The Islanders’ current issues are not just limited to scoring, or even limited to on-ice play. However, their poor start to this season poses serious threats to their playoff chances. The climb will be difficult and it will take some time before this roster is fully restored.
Certain goals could be useful.
“We’re staying positive,” Sebastian Aho said. “We know what we can do.”
However, the Islanders have run out of time.