The penalty kill has been phenomenal -- knocks furiously on wood -- the power play has been almost as good, and the goaltending has yet to truly let the New York Islanders down. That goes quite a ways in explaining their "best November since 2001" start despite generally being out-possessed at 5-on-5 and, well, just seeming a bit off through 12 games of the season.
At 6-3-3, they're just one point off the division lead, but Washington now has two games in hand and the current 0-1-2 run, the last two games without John Tavares, has fans wondering what's up. The weekend's one-goal and/or shootout coin-toss losses could have come at any time, but they stand out coming against two, arguably three, teams the Islanders should have been able to handle better.
Or at least, so we think based on talent and expectations coming off a promising 2014-15 season.
'Other Guys Not Holding Their Weight'
Some of those expectations come from the Isles depth, which includes some young players coming into their own and expected to take another step this season. While several haven't stood out, is anything particular wrong?
Calvin de Haan scored the lone goal against Buffalo. Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome have at least been consistently recording shots the last few games (though one could debate their work in the "dirty" areas). Their shooting percentages are a tad low for the overall forward group, but not crazy low and not a sample worth obsessing over.
Pending free agent Kyle Okposo had the "maybe not invested for 60 minutes" observation, but he has produced shots and points thus far despite seeing no time with Tavares.
Perhaps status quo is not good enough though, particularly when the absence of Tavares means lines are shaken up, roles elevated. Have fun mulling this quote from Jack Capuano, quoted by the Post's Brett Cyrgalis in this article about the Tavares illness:
"As I told them, we have guys that are playing extremely well, and other guys that need to step up their game right now," Capuano said. "We have too many veteran guys that are working too hard, and we have other guys that are not holding their weight, and they have to. So, good meeting this morning, good practice [Monday] and hopefully we’ll be ready [Tuesday]."
In addition to the LHH-reader-favorite mention of the significance of meetings, this potentially hints at another favorite (not) trope: Blaming the young guys.
Arthur Staple's story in Newsday has the same quote and fills in the blanks with Strome, Nelson and Anders Lee as well.
Who Are Your (Unexpected) Goats
So...what do you think? I don't want to make too much out of this -- that's your job as Passionate Fan and Commenter -- but I have found a different mix of Islanders often going through the motions thus far this season. Yet no one specifically, or rather for any scapegoat-worthy length of time. As noted in the recap to Sunday's loss, it looked like certain players were highly engaged in trying to get the insurance goal at 1-0, then trying to take the lead back at 1-1, and ultimately leading the comeback attempt at 1-2.
It's hard to put a finger on because it's not like any players take full games off, or have full games in beast mode. It can vary shift by shift, period by period.
(And for the commentariat, while I am trying not to turn this into a simple rehash of familiar refrains, it was hard not to notice which never-punished players were on the ice and lacking on Sam Reinhart's winning goal Sunday. However, the mistakes on the tying goal were other seldom-whipped characters.)
Hockey is such a thin-margin game, and a couple of bounces or a couple of goals in the opposite direction change how things "felt" and can mask what's going on under the surface. By the same token, it's a fine line between a team fully clicking and being off a bit.
The Isles, well even in victory they have not been fully clicking. It feels a bit fortunate -- but hey, all credit to the special teams and goalies -- that they are where they are given how they've played.
Anyway, your question between games: Does anything or anyone (or any statistic) stand out to you? Try to ignore your favorites and your favorite whipping boys, and tell us: Who do you think has been uncharacteristically poor or quiet during the last three to five games?