Can we go back to the playoffs? Those were more fun. In two games this season, against foes we haven’t seen since the 2019-20 season, the Islanders have given up 11 goals and scored just 4. Ilya Sorokin has struggled, the defense has struggled, and the offense, especially the power play, has struggled.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The Isles are relying heavily on Sorokin now, but Varlamov should hopefully be back soon and able to pick up the slack. The newly constructed Barzal line has looked good so far. Matt Martin is still out, so TBFLIH is incomplete, but he should be back soon to help that line play closer to their normal level.
More concerning though is the defense, where both Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene have struggled, and they make up two thirds of the left defense for the Isles. Chara was a staggering -4 tonight.
It’s early, and the Hurricanes and the Panthers are both good teams, so it’ll be critical to pick up some points against some of the weaker parts of the schedule like Chicago, Columbus, and Arizona in the next three games. There are still some kinks to work out!
Sorokin had to make a big save on Sam Reinhart early, but the Isles were largely in control in the first period. There was a scary moment when Anders Lee took a hit from Radko Gudas which left him kneeling on the ice for a moment, but he didn’t miss a shift.
Cal Clutterbuck hit the post, Oliver Wahlstrom hit outside the net, and despite it looking like the Isles would be scoring first, it was the Panthers as Sam Bennett beat out Noah Dobson to a rebound left by Sorokin right in front of an open net. Dobson could have definitely been better at keeping Bennett out, but that was a tough rebound for Sorokin to leave, especially in the position he was in.
The Islanders hit the post again, and Casey Cizikas drew a penalty when he was tripped by Barkov. Unfortunately, the Islanders’ power play is extremely bad, so they couldn’t even get a shot on goal.
The period ended with the Isles down 1-0.
After a lot of Panthers pressure to start the period, Bennett scored his second of the night, a wraparound goal after Sorokin left his net and no one covered for him.
Leo Komarov took a penalty and the Isles killed that.
Then, it seemed like the Isles were within one, when Ryan Pulock scored into an empty net after a tangle between Gudas and Lee impeded Bobrovsky. The Panthers challenged for goaltender interference, and despite Gudas being the main instigator in Lee making contact with Bobrovsky, the Panthers won the challenge and the goal was wiped off the board. However, out of all of that, the Islanders found themselves on the power play.
This power play was slightly better than the previous, but the Islanders still couldn’t score. They had another opportunity when Sam Reinhart tipped the puck over the glass and was called for delay of game. The power play came up short again.
Pulock had another opportunity when his shot caught Bobrovsky unaware, but he was able to make the save.
Then, a flubbed Brock Nelson shot went right to the stick of Mackenzie Weegar, who set up a speedy Anthony Duclair who scored on the breakaway to make it 3-0 Panthers.
This period was really all Panthers. Duclair nearly made it 4-0, then Weegar hit the post. The Isles could only generate offense on the power play, as Oliver Wahlstrom scored quickly on the man advantage to make it 3-1, giving the Islanders a little bit of hope.
The Isles and Panthers played 4 on 4 after Huberdeau went after Wahlstrom for seemingly no reason, but they both got two minute roughing penalties.
After that ended, Sam Bennett got his hat trick after Chara and Dobson backed up, letting him into the zone where he ripped a shot past Sorokin, all but sealing the win for the Panthers.
Then, forgive me if this sounds similar, Barkov got in behind Chara and Dobson and scored to make it 5-1. A game to forget, but hopefully the coaching staff will be making some adjustments as this 13 game road trip continues.
- Pageau had six shots tonight and Beauvillier had 5. These guys were solid tonight and hopefully they’ll be getting on the board soon because the Isles need both of them to have big seasons this year.
- Sorokin’s struggles are especially frustrating given that right now, the only real backup option is Cory Schneider. Just not a great spot to be in with the goaltending.
- Right now the blue line is clearly missing some of what Nick Leddy brought to the team. Leddy was extremely frustrating in his tenure as an Islander, but he could skate and move the puck and Greene and Chara are just not able to do that.
- The power play really stinks! This has been a problem for years and given what this team has shown it can do at even strength, it seems unbelievable that it’s just on the personnel.
Next, the Islanders tour around the country continues as they head to Chicago on Tuesday. A little early to call things a must-win, but it’s important to finally get a win early in the season.