ELMONT — The Islanders are “snake bit,” according to head coach Lane Lambert as a general air of malaise continues to hang over an organization that is in the midst of a tailspin.
Allowing four unanswered goals in a 4-1 loss to the NHL-best Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, the Islanders capped off a season-high five-game homestand with just a single win — entrenched in a stretch in which they’ve lost six of their last seven and seven of their last nine. They currently sit in sixth place out of eight teams in the Metropolitan Division and are seven points out of the third-place spot which is the last automatic playoff bid in the division.
“It’s something where we’ve got to find our way through it,” Lambert said. “Is it a low point? Again, we need to collect some wins here. It’s a tough league, it’s unforgiving, and nobody’s feeling sorry for us. So, we’ve got to pick our heads up and move on.”
Usual hockey cliches and sunny dispositions have made way for a hint of exasperation in the Islanders’ room, which is understandable given this stretch of play. Since Nov. 29, they’re 8-11-4.
“I think frustration just kills [us],” star center Mathew Barzal said. “I don’t know, we have to kill this… It’s lost us some games recently and it just has to be better. That’s the bottom line.”
“It feels like everything when there’s a breakdown, they’re capitalizing and pucks are going in,” forward Brock Nelson said. “You have to find a way to try and fight through it, correct those mistakes, and when you get a lead, lock it down.”
One of the main culprits of the Islanders’ struggles is a power play that has been an utter non-factor. Over their last 18 games, New York’s man advantage is 3-for-its-last-51.
“I think it’s inconsistent. There are times when we have had good power plays and get good opportunities. But the consistency isn’t there, we’ve got to get more pucks to the net,” Lambert said. “We have to look at it and we have to figure out a way to put the proper units together if it means changing the units. If that’s what we have to do, so be it. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to get some results.”
The power play’s inability to produce presents an obvious and direct correlation to the lack of offensive verve the Islanders have been able to exhibit. During this 18-game stretch, they’ve been held to two goals or fewer 10 times while key contributors have been rendered ineffective — most notably Brock Nelson, who is mired in a 14-game goal drought.
“It’s easy to say you can’t get discouraged but frustration is high,” Nelson said. “You just have to keep going, keep shooting. I’ve said it before, I’ve had looks where you’d like to have a different result but it’s a different story. It is what it is and you have to try and find a way to get to your game — create more opportunities, find a little bit extra, and just hopefully be ready for that next shot and capitalize.”