Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
The injury-ravaged Islanders have won two and lost two coming out of their league-mandated bye week, but let's be honest with each other here. They only played one solid game -- a 7-2 victory at Madison Square Garden over the Rangers.
They're going to need to be much better than a .500 hockey team if they're to crawl out of an 8-13-2 funk that has them at 53 percent of possible points -- slightly ahead of the 2013-14 team that finished 34-37-11 and out of the playoffs. As a reference point, last year's team that finished shy of the postseason by one point finished at 57 percent of possible points.
So, while the team licks its wounds, whether it be Johnny Boychuk, Casey Cizikas, Calvin de Haan, Nikolay Kulemin, Andrew Ladd, or Shane Prince, they need to figure out, once and for all, what they are doing, or attempting to do, in the defensive zone to even realistically start thinking about having a shot at Lord Stanley in April.
The goaltending has been sub-standard, to say the least, not making the saves they need to make when the team needs them the most. Jaroslav Halak sports a .905 save percentage while backup Thomas Greiss sits at .886. League average this year is .913. The two have a combined goals against average of 3.51 as the defense in front of them has crumbled time and time again, leading to high-danger scoring chances seemingly on every opponent shift.
There aren't many, if any, teams around the league who can make due with 67 percent of their defense having their first full-time crack at the big show. With youngsters Adam Pelech (23), Scott Mayfield (25), Ryan Pulock (23) and Sebastian Aho (21), that's exactly what the Islanders are trying to do. And, currently, it's looking to be a gross miscalculation yet again by general manager Garth Snow to not have replaced veteran Travis Hamonic after his offseason trade to Calgary.
The reality is, for the past 23 games, the Islanders are a team that cannot win consistently without scoring four or more goals, putting tremendous pressure on an offense that is the sole reason the team is still within striking distance of a wild-card spot to begin with. The 161 goals they have scored is second in the NHL to the Lightning, while captain John Tavares, Josh Bailey, and Anders Lee are on pace for career seasons, Mathew Barzal is an exciting Calder Trophy candidate, and Jordan Eberle is producing once again like he did for Edmonton.
That will all go for naught if the team doesn't find a way to reduce its league-leading 173 goals against, 30th ranked .897 save percentage and 30th ranked 73.3 percent penalty kill. In fact, looking over the past 20 games, the numbers get even uglier. Only six times have they allowed less than four goals -- a goals against average of 4.05 -- and only four times have they outshot their opponent, allowing an average of 37 shots per game (43 per game if you shorten the time period over their last six games).
There are no top-four defenseman available, and no, I don't believe Cody Franson would have been much help. For me, the big loss was letting Columbus take Jussi Jokinen off waivers, which a New York claim would have prevented. He could have slipped nicely into a third-line, penalty killing role and added plenty of experience to boot.
With the 'summer of John' looming, can the Islanders, specifically Snow, afford to sit back and be silent? Does he think that the terrible defensive results of the past four weeks are the result of injuries and injuries only? Go back to game one and it seems the problem has been there all along, whether anyone wants to admit it or not.
The Islanders placed Casey Cizikas on injured reserve Friday, retroactive to January 13, and recalled Ross Johnston. Joshua Ho-Sang continues to wallow in Bridgeport, still apparently not getting whatever message the Islanders are sending, and the rough, linebacker shaped winger comes up to try and give New York a physical presence, like Matt Martin did in his heyday. I've noted prior that I felt the team was playing 'soft' the past month, so we'll see what kind of energy Johnston (113 PIM in 37 games) can inject into the lineup.