Three Factors in The Islanders Loss to The Oilers

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 09: New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) watches the play during their NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on February 9, 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The New York Islanders lost to the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 on Friday Night. The Islanders continue to struggle in winning back-to-back games. The team hasn’t won two games in a row since January 21, which was nine games ago. As an added insult, this was the first game for the Oilers since they fired coach Dave Tippett earlier in the week. The Islanders seemed energetic, but they couldn’t generate enough offense to keep up with Edmonton. Here are three factors in the Islanders’ loss to the Oilers.

Mike Smith

Say what you want about the struggling Isles offense; they tested Mike Smith tonight. The Islanders took 38 shots on Smith, looking like the same team that beat the Vancouver Canucks 6-3 on Wednesday. However, Smith stood on his head all game, making countless saves on Islanders shooters. No matter how many chances the Isles got, they were all nearly snuffed out by Smith.

“I thought in the first we looked really good,” coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought we should’ve been up a few pucks. We didn’t find the back of the net. A little bit of us and a little bit of Mike Smith. Credit to him.”

The 39-year-old has struggled with inconsistent play and injuries over his past three seasons in Edmonton. This year, his eight starts see him post the worst goals-against average,e and worst save percentage of his career. Smith’s biggest saves came during the third period. He stopped a dangerous chance from Anthony Beauvillier while on a rush. His defense flushed the big rebound into the corner, preventing any further danger. With the clock ticking down under a minute, Smith made a big save on Josh Bailey, who was alone in the slot. The puck ricocheted off Smith’s arm, and he needed a second to corral it.

I don’t think the Islanders’ offense was to blame here. They put in the effort and took a healthy amount of shots. Seemingly no strategy that coach Barry Trotz created worked, and it’s not his fault either. The Isles just ran into a hot goalie.

Flat Third Period

There was a considerable difference in the Islanders’ play in the third period. While they were flying up and down the ice over the first two periods, they entered the third with little desperation. Players would take a single shot on an odd-man rush, then retreat to defend or go off for a line change. This differed from the first two periods, as they didn’t struggle to enter the zone or maintain zone pressure. The forecheck also looked like it took a step back.

“We were positive. I think we wanted to pop one in and tie it up and see what we could, but it just didn’t work out,” Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield said about their mindset going into the third period.

The Islanders were the better team over the first two periods. Sure, they were down two goals, but Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are two of the best scorers in the league. A major turning point was Jessie Puljujarvi’s powerplay goal at 9:14. The Islanders were losing momentum from the Beauvillier goal, as they couldn’t convert on an early third-period powerplay.

The Islanders took a penalty of their own when McDavid got a step past Scott Mayfield, who tripped McDavid to try and break up the play. The Oilers won the faceoff, then got the puck to Puljujarvi. He shot for the five-hole on Isles goalie Ilya Sorokin, likely trying to get a rebound, but Sorokin couldn’t handle the shot, and the Oilers took a 3-1 lead. After that, the momentum had swung, and the Islanders didn’t come close to pushing for a tie.

Ilya Sorokin

Sorokin has been shakey at the beginning of games this year. In three of his last four games, he was scored within the first five minutes of the game. While he gave up a goal in the first period against the Oilers, it came last. Letting in goals is obviously not great no matter how they go in, but at least the Oilers needed to generate a solid scoring chance before getting it past Sorokin in the first two periods.

Zach Hyman scored Edmonton’s second goal in the second period, but even then, Sorokin looked good for the majority of the period. Sorokin should have stopped Puljujarvi’s goal in the third period. It wasn’t a complicated shot by any means, and it seems that Sorokin just misplayed it. The goal buried the Islanders in too deep of a hole.

With players like Draisaitl and McDavid, the expectation is not on Sorokin to be perfect. However, Sorokin’s struggles over the past few months to get comfortable in net has hindered his chance to become the stand-alone number one goalie in New York. Yes, Trotz loves to tandem his goalies, but Sorokin’s play isn’t justifiable to make him the clear number one on this team.

What’s Next?

The Islanders will face the Calgary Flames on Saturday Night. In their first meeting this season, the eat UBS Arena. The loss was part of an atrocious 11-game losing streak by the Isles. Brock Nelson scored both Islanders goals, and Semyon Varlamov was in net.

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