Islanders ‘top guys’ must find scoring touch to cement playoff spot

Bo Horvat Islanders
New York Islanders’ Bo Horvat celebrates after scoring a goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Lane Lambert will always preach the scripture that resurrected the Islanders under his predecessor, Barry Trotz, and makes them a borderline playoff team when they can trudge through the inconsistency to find it: Evenly distributed, four-line play that creates off of the defense. 

” You need secondary scoring for a four-line hockey team and we need our top guys to produce as well,” Lambert said. “The bottom line is this: We play solid defensively and take advantage of our chances.”

It hasn’t happened nearly as often this season, and it’s one of the reasons why the Islanders find themselves entering Thursday night’s clash with the Tampa Bay Lightning clinging on to a one-point lead for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins with four games left to play. 

The tightrope they’re currently tip-toeing across was created by their most recent bout of erraticness. New York has scored just three goals in their last three games — two goals in a win against the Washington Capitals and a goal in a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes sandwiching a 5-0 loss at the hands of the very same Lightning.

The “top guys” Lambert alluded to who should be leading the scoring attack have been noticeably quiet as of late.

Islanders Lee Nelson
New York Islanders Anders Lee (27) celebrates a goal with center Brock Nelson (29) as Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letting (58) skates by during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, March 9, 2023, in Pittsburgh. The Islanders won 4-3. (AP Photo/Philip G. Pavely)

Bo Horvat, who scored 31 goals with the Vancouver Canucks before he was traded to the Islanders, has scored just six goals in 26 games. He went 11 games without a goal and has just a single empty-net goal in the last 15 games.

Brock Nelson, who has back-to-back 30-goal seasons, hasn’t scored in his last five games and has found the back of the net in just four of the last 18 (six goals). 

Anders Lee, once a 40-goal scorer, has one goal in his last 11 games and hasn’t tallied one in the last six. 

As much as Lambert and the Islanders harp on the importance of secondary scoring, the big guns are going to be the reason they make or miss the postseason with each of these next eight points on the table being crucial. 

For them, this is the time to step up and put the attack on their back to cement a playoff spot. 

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