3 Takeaways from the Islanders Loss to the Panthers

SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 16: Zdeno Chara #33 of the New York Islanders pursues Ryan Lomberg #94 of the Florida Panthers as he circles behind the net with the puck at the FLA Live Arena on October 16, 2021 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

In their 5-1 loss to the Florida Panthers, the New York Islanders still have some catching up to do. They have been outscored 11-4 through the team’s first two games this season. For fans, it’s still too early to panic, but the Islanders need more adjusting before they’re in mid-season form. While Oliver Wahlstrom scored the first powerplay goal of the year, Zdeno Chara and Zach Parise are still finding their legs. Ilya Sorokin had an okay performance but will start until Seymon Varlamov returns from injury. With an 0-2 record, let’s look at 3 takeaways from the Islanders’ loss to the Panthers.

The Offense Looked Good

Against the Panthers, the offense played a solid game. The Islanders had a six-minute possession in the offensive zone, but Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky turned aside all the dangerous chances. Florida winger Sam Bennett fought through the Islanders’ defense on a counter-attack and scored against Sorokin. Lines 1-3 are starting to meld, as Kyle Palmieri has fallen into his role on the top line. He looked good during the flurry in the first and was threatening on the powerplay that finally scored in the third period.

The Islanders’ puck luck was not there for them on the offensive side of the ice. When the Islanders were down 2-0 in the second period, Ryan Pulock blasted a shot from the point past Bobrovsky. The refs called the goal back, ruling that Anders Lee had interfered with the Panthers’ goalie. The Islanders would get a powerplay out of the scrum around Lee, couldn’t do anything with the man advantage, and gave up a breakaway goal to Anthony Duclar shortly after the penalty ended. The Panther goals that came directly after the Isles missed chances hurt the Islanders’ offense the most. Like a boxer missing their punches, the Islanders’ offense eventually ran out of steam.

The Defense Needs a Leader

Man does this team miss Nick Leddy. Besides Pulock, the Isles defense has had trouble moving the puck around. The communication between the pairings needs a boost. During Bennett’s first goal, defenseman Noah Dobson played too far away and couldn’t clear the Islanders’ crease. Islanders’ color commentator Butch Goring said that Dobson was out of position on the goal and that the defense needs to communicate more.

With the myriad of turnovers in their own zone, it seems like the Islanders’ defense isn’t communicating. With losses to Johnny Boychuck and Leddy over the past two seasons, the defense needs somebody to step up. This is a role assumed to be held by Andy Greene and Chara, but both players have been part of the defensive struggles. Chara was on the ice for four of the five goals scored by Florida last night.

In the first two games, the defense has been outmatched by young and speedy teams in the Panther and Carolina Hurricanes. With an older team like the Chicago Blackhawks on the schedule next, the Islanders’ defense can recoup and gain some chemistry between them.

Sorokin is Overworked

The first two games have not been easy on the young netminder. Sorokin has allowed ten goals through his first two games. Sporting a 5.09 goals-against average and a .855 save percentage, he could use the two days of rest before Tuesday’s game. Varlamov’s absence directly impacts Sorokin’s struggles. Going into the season, Sorokin has expectations to take over the majority of starts in goal. To say that he is not capable after two games would be unjust, but not having a security blanket in Varlamov forces Sorokin into the primary role.

Against the Hurricanes on Thursday, Sorokin was tracking the puck well. He wasn’t giving up bad rebounds or letting soft goals past him. A lackluster defense let down Sorokin, and the game got out of hand. He did not look great against the Panthers. He was rattled by the Bennett and Duclar goals, and his confidence was shaken late in the game.

Cory Schneider is serving as the current backup. Schneider hasn’t seen NHL action since the 2019-20 season with the New Jersey Devils. He won his last game, allowing two goals, in a 4-2 win against the St. Louis Blues.

The Verdict

Heading into the Tuesday night game against the Blackhawks, the Islanders will focus on the essential things hurting the team. The defense looks disjointed and needs a leader. The offense is starting to work but needs to convert chances into goals. Sorokin needs help on the defensive end to gain more confidence. The Islanders don’t have much depth to replace the players they currently put on the ice. This means the players currently out there need to step up if the team really wants to win the division and contend for the Stanley Cup.

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