Thursday, December 21, 2017

Isles Report: Comeback Squandered as Ducks Tie Late and Win in OT



The Islanders continue to struggle with defense and goaltending and ended up with an overtime loss to the Ducks that drops them to 3-6-2 in December. It could have been an inspiring victory but Rickard Rakell potted a late goal at 18:45 of the third with Ryan Miller pulled, then Hampus Lindholm completed his first career hat-trick at 4:03 of overtime to give Anaheim a much-needed two points.

Here are five thoughts on the Islanders latest loss:

1. The Isles don't look good at 5 on 6

It was way too easy for Anaheim to tie this game, and it was way too strange that Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech were out as a pair when the goal was scored. But that is the reality on the Islanders blue line right now. Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk can't play 60 minutes a game. End of story. The Isles D corps are short on experience and oftentimes slow to react to danger. The overtime goal saw both Mayfield and Pelech tied up in front of the net while Rakell drifted in a dangerous area at the right circle, where he was able to bang a shot home into a virtually empty net.

Enjoy it below:



There was nothing Halak could have done on this play, but it sure looked like Mayfield could have drifted out to challenge the shooter as Pelech seemed to have the front of the crease. Obviously there's going to be a two-on-one in front of the net if Mayfield drifts to cover Rakell, but somebody has to prevent the Ducks' sniper from having a wide open look like that.

It's the second time in three games that the Islanders have allowed a tying goal with the opposition's goalie pulled--not a positive trend.

2. New York is bleeding goals

The Islanders have allowed at least four goals in eight of their eleven games this month. It's not pretty right now. They have allowed five or more goals six times in 11 December games.

3. The Goaltending Isn't Great Either

The Islanders have the NHL's worst save percentage in December at .865. Jaroslav Halak actually played a pretty decent game in goal tonight but he was beaten clean on shots by Hampus Lindholm for the Ducks third goal and the overtime winner. Lindholm ripped both shots, but Halak really could have made both saves. Halak made 35 saves tonight, and in his defense, the Ducks has 36 scoring chances to just 20 for the Islanders. The loss isn't all on him, but despite his solid effort, he could have been sharper, particularly against Lindholm.

Take a look at Lindholm's second goal. The Isles lost the draw and were slow to react. They were careful not to screen Halak, but how about challenging the shooter? Very soft play from the Islanders, who seem to shoot themselves in the foot with plays like this far too often these days. See the play below:

' 4. Pelech and Mayfield Held their Own

I keep wanting to beat up Scott Mayfield because he just looks like he's a step slow in his own zone when he makes reads and when he tries to start the breakout, but from a possession standpoint he and Adam Pelech were the Islanders strongest pair. Mayfield had a 56.67 CF% (17 for, 13 against) at 5-on-5, and he played over ten minutes against Ryan Getzlaf. Pelech had a 55.17 CF% (16 for, 13 against). The Thomas Hickey (8 for 15 against) and Ryan Pulock (7 for, 16 against) pairing got blown up in possession, while Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuck were possession neutral but on the short end of the scoring chance battle (9 for 17 against).

It's hard to tell where to place the blame when it comes to the Islanders D, but they are clearly struggling in coverage, breakouts and on the penalty kill. Is there any hope that they can improve or will Garth Snow have to make a deal in the not too distant future to right the ship?

Honestly, it seems like Pulock and Mayfield are in over their heads while trying to play Doug Weight's uptempo system. They are slow-footed and slow to make the reads that spring the plays or break up opponent's opportunities. Maybe Weight's system is fine, but it's just not suited for the bottom four personell that he is currently working with?

What came first the chicken or the egg?

5. The Offense, As Usual, Was Good

There were definitely some signs of life and some good ones at that in this game. A pair of goals from John Tavares, a 5-on-3 goal by Mathew Barzal and Andrew Ladd's 9th of the season helped New York climb back from two-goal deficits twice.

Josh Bailey took over the NHL assist lead with three helpers. He's having an incredible contract year for the Islanders and is in line for a big raise right along with his linemate JT. Will the Islanders have enough cap space to sign them both long-term?

Tavares' pair of goals leaves him with 21 and ties him with Anders Lee for the team lead. Both are now two behind Alexander Ovechkin and Nikita Kucherov, who lead the NHL with 23 goals.

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