Islanders Look Sloppy in Opening Road Loss

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JUNE 25: Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders reacts after his teams 1-0 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Seven of the NHL Stanley Cup Semifinals during the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Amalie Arena on June 25, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The New York Islanders opened their 2021-22 season with a 6-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Islanders showed some preseason rust, looking shaky both offensively and defensively. With the season starting on a historic 13-game road trip, some of these games will feel like a slog. The Islanders will play about a third of their games away from home in this stretch.

In fairness, only the Adam Pelch-Ryan Pulock defensive pairing was carried over from last year. The rest of the lines were shuffled around, including Kyle Palmieri moving up to the first line to play with Matt Barzal and Anders Lee. These line changes will take the players a while to get familiar with. Twice during this game, Barzal stopped a rush to let Palmieri catch up, but the passing lane had closed before a play could be made.

“I didn’t think we had enough guys on their ‘A’ game,” Trotz told the media.

The Positives

Barzal opened the scoring on a goal that needed a review after play had continued. The pad of Hurricanes goalie Freddie Anderson initially blocked the referee’s view, and the play was called dead two minutes later. Barzal was given the first goal of the Islanders’ season. He looked to be in mid-season form, out-dekeing defenders and setting up chances on the offensive end.

Lee scored off a rebound with just over five minutes remaining in the second period. He took a cross-checking penalty in the first but skated well and played a good game in returning to the ice. When he went down last March with an ACL injury, he led the Islanders in scoring with 19 points.

“Anders leads the right way,” Trotz said in the post-game. “I see good things for him this year.”

Anthony Beauvillier also made an impact with his new role on the second line. He scored an assist on a Brock Nelson goal a minute into the second period and had two breakaways against a tight Carolina defense.

The Negatives

The Islanders didn’t come out of the gate as the world-beaters they would need to be. They skated very slow in the first and didn’t turn it on until they were down by two goals. They almost completed the comeback but took costly penalties that resulted in a powerplay goal by Teuvo Teravainen at 11:36 of the third period. This iced the game.

The powerplay looked terrible. They went 0-3 on the man advantage, mustering zero shots on their first powerplay of the season. They had a few chances that came directly after the powerplay ended, but the they didn’t stand a chance against the Hurricane’s penalty kill. While the Islanders’ powerplay ranked 21st in the NHL last season, the Hurricanes were the 9th best at killing penalties in 2020-21.

The new additions didn’t make much difference. The signings of Zdeno Chara and Zach Parise seemed like quality adds during the offseason, but they were largely invisible in their Islanders’ debut. Chara played alongside Noah Dobson, a pairing that Trotz liked during the preseason. While Dobson had a good game, Chara’s game felt indifferent. Parise had one big play late in the third period. He swept the puck in front of the net, but J.G. Pageau whiffed on the shot.

Ilya Sorokin

A positive about Sorokin in this game is his ability to track the puck. When Lee took the cross-checking penalty in the second period, Sorokin saved at least five consecutive high-quality shots. The Islanders’ defense began to appear sluggish, and Sorokin did his best to keep them in the game. The Hurricanes took 40 shots, Sorokin saved 35. He finished with ten more saves than Anderson.

This is the second straight season that Sorokin let in five goals during his first start of the season. Last year, in his NHL debut, he let up five goals to the New York Rangers. Oddly, Semyon Varlamov was also injured and could not play in that game either.

The Verdict:

The Islanders have some kinks to work out. Barzal, Lee, and Nelson had good moments, but the team did not play good hockey. The Hurricanes outskated the Islanders, and the powerplay couldn’t capitalize at all. This game is not a tone-setter for the rest of the season but is important because of the road ahead. The Islanders need to establish themselves as a leader in the Metropolitan division, and starting the season on the road is not an easy task.

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