Hot potato, hot potato! Hot potato, hot potato! Hot potato, potato, potato…
Seriously, at this point in the season, I can’t be the only one who thinks this during Isles’ power plays.
The Islanders first season under new coaching and management is almost over, and the power play looks worse than ever. It’s almost unbelievable compared to how improved the rest of the Islanders’ play is. This team may be composed of many of the same players from last season, but it looks completely different. Just look at Casey Cizikas’ goal count or the overall goals against average. The team that was overwhelmingly expected to bottom out the League this year spent two months in first place of the Metropolitan Division. Even in their recent slump, they’re still hanging onto second place.
And yet the power play is pitiful.
On 208 chances this season, the Islanders have only 31 power play goals. According to Fox Sports statistics, the Isles are only 14.9% on the power play. Though Anders Lee finally ended the drought in Minnesota on Sunday, they haven’t had another since. Their recent record is 1-30. Trotz and players alike are unhappy with the power play. They claim to be working on it, but what are the results? One or two personnel changes that clearly have not wielded results. No matter how solid the team’s goaltending and defense is, they will not survive the playoffs long without offense and a respectable power play. Despite any work the team may or may not be doing, the man-advantage special teams are still passing the puck excruciatingly slowly, bobbling it at the blue line, and giving it away.
As Butch Goring said during the broadcast in Montreal on Thursday night, “[The Islanders] just refuse to shoot the puck. If you’re anybody that’s standing in front of that net, you’ve got to wonder, ‘What am I doing here?’ This puck does not come towards me.”
Butch could not be more right. The Islanders refuse to shoot from anywhere on the ice if they have the man advantage. Rather than looking for any opportunity and following rebounds, they look for the perfect opportunity only. They look for the shot that is guaranteed to go in the net, and they do not shoot unless they find it. Instead, they pass the puck back and forth, back and forth in practically the exact same routine every single time. The strategy would seem to be “Catch the defense off-guard by taking a rare shot,” but they don’t shoot often enough for that even.
Something needs to change. No, several things. Aside from the obvious (less passing, more shooting), maybe some more personnel changes; at this point, anyone could make a difference on the power play. Tanner Fritz, for example, has a lot of power play experience in Bridgeport and could shake things up positively. Cizikas, too, might make a positive difference. No, he’s not a typical man-advantage player, but with how hot he’s been this season, he might fit the role better than Clutterbuck.
At this point, it’s less about perfection and more about basic progress since the power play keeps regressing. In his post-game interview with AJ Mleczko, Coach Barry Trotz said he thought Montreal gained momentum off the Islanders’ power play. That’s just a little backward from what’s supposed to happen.
If the team’s own coaches and announcers are blatantly criticizing them, why is it so hard for the coaching staff to create real change? The rest of their play turned around so quickly after just two months of the regular season. Why hasn’t the power play, too?
Featured Image: Andy Graziano, WFAN