Slow starts mystifying Islanders amid drop in play

The Islanders have now lost two straight behind poor starts.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There was always going to be a letdown following the Islanders’ nine-game win streak and 12-game point streak, but the drop in play has been a considerable one as Barry Trotz’s men have lost four of their last seven. 

Most recently, that included two straight to the Pittsburgh Penguins, whom they lost six of eight against this season while continuing a disturbing trend of falling behind early. 

The Islanders have been forced to play catchup in each of their last four games while conceding the first two goals in each of the last three.

“You’re not going to have a whole lot of success playing that way,” veteran forward Matt Martin, who scored the Islanders’ lone goal in Monday’s 2-1 loss, said. “This isn’t a recipe for success.”

Their notably slow starts have coincided with the loss of captain Anders Lee, who is gone for the remainder of the 2021 season after suffering an ACL injury that required surgery.

The loss of such a prominent veteran voice and the team’s leading goal scorer provides a sizable hurdle for any team to clear, but the Islanders aren’t putting their finger on that as the reason for their reason struggles.

In fact, they can’t put their finger on anything.

“I don’t know,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “We’re not trying to do it, but it’s something we have to stop now.”

“Some of it may be a little bit of fatigue,” Trotz wondered aloud after his team completed its fourth game in a week. “Just the grind of the season, those type of things. I can’t pinpoint anything specific on it.”

Instead, it appears to be more anomalies unbefitting one of the most composed sides in hockey.

“We talk about being ready to go and we just didn’t start on time,” Trotz continued. “Most of the games, we were fine in the first period. We’ve done things that have cost us.

“If it was the same, reoccurring instance, not necessarily the first periods, but [Monday], it was a line change, the other day was… a forecheck. Individual breakdowns are leading to goals right now and unfortunately, we’re falling on the wrong side of the ledger, especially in the last two games.”

There’s little time to rectify the situation as the Islanders’ off day on Tuesday to try and sort out the mental aspect of their slow starts leads directly into a gargantuan matchup with the first-place Washington Capitals at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday night. An Islanders win would draw them level with Washington at 50 points.

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