Three Factors in the Islanders’ Loss to the Canadiens

ELMONT, NY - FEBRUARY 20: Montreal Canadiens Center Laurent Dauphin (45) checks New York Islanders Defenseman Noah Dobson (8) into the boards during the first period of the National Hockey League game between the Montreal Canadiens on February 20, 2022, at UBS Arena in Elmont, NY. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The New York Islanders lost 3-2 to the Montreal Canadiens in a shootout on Sunday afternoon. After a solid performance against the Boston Bruins on Thursday, the Islanders looked out of touch against one of the worst teams in the NHL. The Isles spent most of the game chasing the Canadiens as goalie Andrew Hammond shut them down. They didn’t play all that tight either, with numerous lapses in the neutral and defensive zones. Any playoff hopes are probably dashed at this point, as the Islanders can’t put together a sizable win streak. Here are the three factors in the Islanders’ loss.

Offense Didn’t Shoot Enough

Canadiens goalie Andrew Hammond hasn’t played in the NHL in four seasons. Hammond has been in the AHL since the 2017-18 season, so the Islanders got beat by a goalie who was deemed not fit enough even to be a backup. The Islanders failed to pepper Hammond with pucks as he outdueled Ilya Sorokin. The Islanders outshot the Canadiens 32-27 but couldn’t beat Hammond.

The Islanders got way too cute on the powerplay and in overtime, wasting possible chances for them to win the game. The Isles went 1-4 on the powerplay, with three of the four coming in the first period. Kyle Palmieri scored on the powerplay 1:29 into the second period. His goal came from a rebound from a Josh Bailey shot that ricocheted off Hammond’s pad. Palmieri charged the net at the perfect time and laced a backhander to the empty side of the goal.

The issue of getting pucks on net has been a staple in the Islanders’ struggles. Matt Barzal, Anders Lee, and Brock Nelson are the only Islanders with an above-average shooting percentage this season. Last year, the Islanders had nine players shooting the puck well above average. The team looks completely lost at times, and all the turnovers from drop passes and no-look passes have further regressed the Isles offense.

Sorokin Struggles

Ilya Sorokin is the Islanders starter until Semyon Varlamov comes out of Covid protocol. Sorokin started his sixth-straight game on Sunday but still lacked that “magic” that he had last year. Jeff Petry scored on a shot from the point that squeaked through Sorokin and dribbled over the line as the Russian-born netminder looked for the rebound. Initially, it looked like a Canadiens player made contact with Sorokin, but further reviews showed no interference. Not all blame goes to Sorokin here, as the Islanders couldn’t clear the zone.

Montreal’s second goal came from Josh Anderson with 1:11 seconds left in the second period. Again, the Islanders’ defense was also a reason for this goal. The Canadiens entered the zone with a three-on-four, and the Islanders were flat-out lazy in their defensive zone. Anderson was alone behind the net, sending the puck back to the blue line, and he moved unguarded to the doorstep of the goal. Nick Suzuki sent a cross-ice pass back to Anderson, who waited out Sorokin. Sorokin moved away from his post, trying to anticipate another pass, but put himself out of position in the process.

While the Islanders didn’t help out their goaltender, Sorokin also put himself in bad situations. The two goals by Montreal could have been avoided by both good defense and good goaltending. If one of those goals doesn’t happen, the Islanders might take this game in regulation.

Players Didn’t Step Up

After Thursday’s game in Boston, the Islanders were expected to roll the Canadiens. Instead, the offense looked horrible and dysfunctional. Barzal and Nelson got absolutely nothing going, as most of their passes ended up on Montreal’s sticks. The offense also struggled to finish dangerous chances in the offensive zone. The Islanders couldn’t beat Hammond, who has been a minor-league goalie for the past four years.

Nelson’s goal gave hope that the team got over the hump and could pull out a win. They blew almost all of their powerplay chances, and even the one goal they scored has a caveat. The Islanders were on a 5-on-3 powerplay, as the Canadiens took a hooking on Anthony Beauviller as the first-period horn sounded. The second penalty was too much for the Canadiens’ defense, and they eventually conceded a goal to the Islanders.

The overtime and shootout were bad too. The Islanders showed little fight, as the Canadiens outworked them in their own zone. Neither team could generate much offense in overtime, but the Isles still have more talent than Montreal, even with everything that’s happened this season. They needed to end that game earlier than the shootout. The Canadiens moved to a 2-7 record in overtime with the win.

“When you talk about the Islanders in the last few years, I think everybody says, ‘We don’t get it. They get more out of, it’s about the sum of their parts altogether, and everybody’s had career years,'”coach Barry Trotz said. “His year, we fell off, and some guys haven’t had career years. We need everybody. that show you right the ship.”

And this statement by Trotz truly hits home. It seems as if the whole roster regressed—players young and old aren’t performing up to their potential, and there’s a lack of reason for it. Trotz will bench a player for bad performance; they will register a point upon returning to the lineup but then go back to business as usual. Two examples of this are Josh Bailey and Oliver Wahlstrom. Both players looked great when returning but can’t consistently produce enough to win games.

What’s Next?

The Islanders will be on the road Tuesday night in Seattle to face the Kraken. The Islanders lost to the expansion team at the beginning of February, right before the All-Star break. The 3-0 loss was VVarlamov’slast start in net. Philipp Grubauer posted a 19-save shutout in the Kraken win.

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