Islanders offense looking to find killer instinct

Anders Lee Islanders
Islanders captain Anders Lee
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders are nowhere near content with their play over the first seven games of the 2021-22 season. 

A shootout loss to the Nashville Predators over the weekend sunk their record to 3-2-2, though they extended their point streak to five consecutive games. 

Familiar problems seem to be resurfacing. While their blue line has started slow, stellar goaltending from Ilya Sorokin has the Islanders’ defense ranked in the NHL’s top-10. But their offense, averaging just 2.43 goals per game, is ranked 25th in the league.

Granted, a season-starting 13-game road trip that features a sporadic playing schedule isn’t doing much to sustain momentum. But the Islanders understand that they need more from their attack.

“We’re building our game. We’re building it for the long haul here,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “We take the break to focus in and make the changes… at the same time, being home and rest… you have to take advantage of it… We’ve all seen the schedule moving forward and we won’t have many breaks.”

The loss to Nashville was the Islanders’ first game in six days before a five-day hiatus ends on Thursday night in Montreal against the Canadiens. They then have a weekend back-to-back in Winnipeg against the Jets and Minnesota against the Wild.

What’s been preached during the break has been finding that next gear to put teams out of reach, especially while playing with a lead. The Islanders held advantages in each of their last two losses, which came in shootouts to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville. 

“I think parts of our game have been OK. I think there’s a few parts of our game where we really have to lock in a little bit better,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “Some stuff offensively, some more support on the puck, a little more zone time, be a little more dangerous in some areas. Some of our protocols, we let slip a little bit.

“There are things in our game where we need to push an opponent out with those opportunities that we get.”

The focus naturally falls on those who are expected to carry a significant piece of the offensive load but have yet to do so.

Kyle Palmieri and Jean-Gabriel Pageau — both of whom have previously scored 25-plus goals in a season — have yet to find the back of the net this year. Lee has just one goal in his first six games.

Getting them going will only help the Islanders’ cause with six more games of this road trip remaining until their long-anticipated arrival to their new home at UBS Arena.

“We’re getting points on the road, that’s a good thing,” Trotz said. “But Id’ like to finish with a couple wins. We’ve had some opportunities.”