Efense…Something’s Missing? Oh Right, The D!
By Mike Basile
I don’t think many, if any, Islanders fans were complaining when they acquired Thomas Vanek from Buffalo. He is a great scorer that will fit great with Tavares! The question is, did it really address the issues the Islanders are having? The two main issues in my opinion are quite obvious, defense and goaltending. By acquiring Vanek, they did bolster up the scoring and power play, but with the Isles already averaging three goals a game, was that really necessary?
The defense has been lackluster to say the least all year. The top pair, made up of defensemen Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald, is a combined -7. Granted those two will be found on the ice for almost half the game, your top defensive pair has to be setting the tone for the others. The team allows on average 3.2 goals a game, which is a whopping 27th in the NHL. Don’t you worry Islander fans it only gets better from here, right? Oh wait, I forgot their penalty kill was 28th in the league at 75 percent. The mistakes this team makes are repetitive and consequential. The Islanders have gone a very inconsistent 1-4-1 in games after previous game victories. Bad passes in the defensive and neutral zone have shown to be costly, as well as having defensemen out of position and losing battles in front of the net. Unlucky, but still repetitive are broken sticks and fanning on shots that turn in to odd man rushes. Finally, the one that gets me like no other…… LOSING BATTLES IN THE CORNER! Ladies and gentleman that is all will power in that corner and losing over half of those is going to cause trouble.
A high point of last year has turned in to a scary 2 minutes this season. The penalty kill has been atrocious (to say it nicely). The fact that teams score on 25 percent of their power plays is killer to a team. For a successful penalty kill the team has to be at least over 80 percent and watching them play it seems like the Islanders are a long way from that. In their most recent game against Washington, the Islanders killed 2/6 power plays and if that is not bad enough, I would say over 90 percent of power play time was spent in the Islanders’ zone. If you cannot clear the puck, your opponent will score goals. It is that simple.
It would not be fair if I only blamed the defense, especially with a starting goalie whose save percentage is under 90 percent. Cue Evgeni Nabokov, who since the playoffs last season has been a slouch for this team to say the least. With his save percentage at .897, he ranks an abysmal 37th among NHL goalies. Even if you do not watch hockey, I think you would agree that this team needs a change back there. What about his goals against? That has to be better right? Yeah!! He ranks 37th in the league with a 3.18 goals against average. Now we ask the question “who is the backup” and that is Kevin Poulin, who has yet to get a fair chance on the Island. With two out of three solid outings against two quality teams in Chicago and Boston, I am definitely giving this kid more nods!
The question at hand is: what can the Islanders do? Here is my solution. First things first, do not panic! It is still early in the season and they have Visnovsky, who is still injured and will come back soon and help the defense. Another quick solution is to part ways with Matt Carkner, as he has been nothing but a liability. I would go out and sign Corey Potter off waivers for a cheap price and play him with Donovan over Carkner. As for the goalie problem, I would start giving Poulin more starts over Nabby and if that doesn’t work, it is time for a shakeup in goal.
Mike Basile is a sophomore at York College Of Pennsylvania. He is a huge Sports fan, and when it comes to hockey maybe considered a little obsessive. Giving insight on the Islanders and all things hockey. You can follow him on twitter @mikeybasile1