New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz is pissed off. Those are his words, not ours.
After a 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night in which the Islanders surrendered the game-winning goal with just 26 seconds remaining, Trotz and his men found themselves at .500 through three games as the glaring shortcoming of inconsistent offense is now being paired with mental mistakes. That certainly is not the Islanders way since Trotz arrived ahead of the 2018-19 season.
“It’s a playoff mentality,” Trotz said. “I’m not sure we’re in our playoff mentality right now, which is really pissing me off.”
The main culprit of the loss to a shorthanded Capitals team — they didn’t have some of its best players in the legendary Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, and starting goalie Ilya Samsonov — was veteran winger Leo Komarov, who took a five-minute major boarding penalty with eight minutes left in a tie game and then failed to properly backcheck, allowing Justin Schultz to streak in and pot the game-winning wrister past Semyon Varlamov.
While Trotz insisted there were “no regrets” playing Komarov — especially right after his major penalty — he promised lineup changes were on the way.
“We had one line tonight,” Trotz said, referring to his first line of Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, and Jordan Eberle. “That’s all that I felt I had. We’re going to shake it up and put some new people in and go from there.”
The Islanders have scored just twice in their three losses this year and are averaging a measly 1.83 goals per game. Of those 11 goals scored in six games, seven have come from the first line with only two other forwards — Brock Nelson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau — lighting the lamp.
Nelson, who centers the second line, was without his left-winger, Anthony Beauvillier, due to a lower-body injury. He promoted the 22-year-old Kieffer Bellows from the third line to the second while flanking Pageau — an all-around engine of the Islanders — with the non-offensively-gifted Komarov and Ross Johnston.
All the while, Oliver Wahlstrom has yet to make an appearance yet for the Islanders this season. The 20-year-old winger impressed at training camp and possesses as wicked a shot as you’ll find in New York. But so far, Trotz has prioritized familiar structure instead of potential scoring help.
While he didn’t record a single point in nine NHL games last season, he put up 10 goals and 22 assists in 45 games with the team’s minor-league affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Expectations, for now, is that he’ll get the call for his 2021 season debut for the Thursday-night rematch against the Capitals (7 p.m. ET) while Michael Dal Colle could also be re-introduced into the lineup to give Pageau’s third line a different look and a little more to work with.