Takeaways from the Islanders Overtime Loss to Columbus

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 21: New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock #6 reaches for the puck during the game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Islanders at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on October 21, 2021. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Islanders fought valiantly but took an overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night. Their performance warranted mixed reactions, as they allowed two goals near the end of the second period. Both goals came 30 seconds apart. The Islanders did tie the game in the third but blew chances to end the game in overtime. With the team sitting at 1-2-1 through four games, let’s look at the takeaways from Thursday’s game.

Game Story

The Isles skated well and kept pace with the underrated Blue Jackets in the first. They are starting to get into the groove of playing competitive and close games again. While there were some moments when the team laid off the gas, the Islanders played an even first period.

The second period was mostly the same. The First Line of Matt Barzal, Anders Lee, and Kyle Palmieri were electric and barely missed the net on quality chances. Barzal was being double-shifted on the third line due to J.G. Pageau suffering from an illness. The game’s first goal came from Scott Mayfield, who pinched in with the puck and banked a backhand shot off of a Columbus defender. The puck trickled through the legs of goalie Elvis Merzlinkins and gave the Isles a 1-0 lead.

The Blue Jackers responded late in the period when Casey Cizikas took a hooking penalty. Cizikas is a prominent piece in the Islanders penalty kill, and the Blue Jackets capitalized on the powerplay. Boone Jenner redirected a shot from Jakub Voracek and tied the game at 1. Thirty-three seconds later, Cole Sillinger, son of former Islander Mike Sillinger, scored his first goal in the NHL. The Islanders were passive in response to the Jenner goal, and it immediately cost them.

“That’s just being careless,” Trotz said about the Cizikas penalty late in the second period. “We take a penalty; that’s just someways unacceptable. They scored on it and got momentum on it. The next shift after a goal is huge, and they duplicated in the corner, fed it out in front, and we were late to the party. “

Barzal tied the game in the third with Matt Martin screening Merzlinkins. The game stayed tied through regulation, with neither team creating great chances after the goal. Patrik Laine scored the game-winning goal just under two minutes into the overtime period. He got a clean look at the right faceoff circle and ripped a shot past Ilya Sorokin.

Top Line was Great

While Barzal tied the game in the third, the Islanders’ top line looked great throughout the game. They were threatening in the first and second periods, creating good scoring chances in front of the net. The first line created the chance for Mayfield to score his goal in the second. With the Blue Jackets trapped in their own zone, the Islanders caused a turnover. Mayfield also had the help of Lee in front of the net in case Merzlinkins gave up a juicy rebound.

The line led the team in shots on goal, with 16 total. Barzal registered nine shots, while Lee added six. Barzal had the most ice time of all Islanders forwards, but he was on two separate shift rotations.

Powerplay Needs a Change

The Islanders’ powerplay went 0-3 last night, making them 1-12 through the season’s first four games. This season, Columbus has one of the best penalty kills, allowing only one goal on twelve total penalties. Regardless of the skill of the penalty killers, the Islanders struggle to create chances in front of the net. Barzal is a great player, but he gets overmatched when he starts to dangle his way to the net. Without help, the play falls apart, resulting in the defense clearing the puck.

This isn’t a dig at Barzal. Calling out the powerplay is focused more on the setup of a formation and help from wingers on the line. Wahlstrom scored in the 4-1 loss to the Panthers last Saturday off a rebound. Without that goal, the Islanders would be 0-13 on the powerplay this season. Maybe they’re overthinking the setup. Maybe shooting wildly at the net ten times during the powerplay will do them better.

Mixing up the Second Line

Coach Barry Trotz called out the Islanders’ second line during the postgame press conference. The line, consisting of Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey, and Anthony Beauvillier, has not impressed Trotz.

“Trotz: Nelson line hasn’t been good last two games. “Their analytics were terrible” in CHI. “Think we may have to change some things around with that line,” Islanders beat writer Arthur Staple tweeted following the loss.

Trotz is a man of action. How do you know he doesn’t trust a player? He will not give them minutes—case in point, double shifting Barzal and playing Kiefer Bellows for six minutes last night.

There are a few possibilities that are intriguing to a mix-up on the second line. The most possible is Bailey gets moved down to the third line and Wahlstrom up to the second. Nelson would have two quick wings to work with, adding that Beauvillier and Wahlstrom have a history of being paired together. Wahlstrom has been on a tear to start the season, and more ice time will only help the Islanders. Bailey’s move to the third line would be an odd pairing. He would slow Pageau and Zach Parise down but would be a good group to control the game’s pace.

The Verdict

The Islanders salvaged a point out of a game in which they played just okay. While at some points they were dominant, the game changed when they took their foot off the gas following a failed penalty kill. Through four games, the Islanders are still working out problems in the lineup, but the feeling is they are moving somewhat forward. We are way too early into the season to be panicking, and Trotz has a track record of excelling in pressure situations. With some tinkering still left to do, the Islanders will be in Arizona for the game on Saturday.

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