(Photo credit: New York Islanders)
This has been an amazing season for a very young group of players. The New York Islanders have a lot to be proud of as they exit the playoffs, although it is sooner than they and their fans would have liked. The team had a strong season as they closed out the last year of the team’s 43 year history at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders, who have not won a playoff series in the past 22 years lost to the Washington Capitals in their first game 7 since 2002. The team was playing without half of their starting defenseman due to injuries, instead relying on players who have been scratched or played in Bridgeport most of the year such as, Griffin Reinhart, Matt Donovan, and Scott Mayfield to step up. The injuries are not an excuse though; the team was outplayed in their 2-1 loss last night. They were outshot 26 to 11, this is the lowest shots on goal the team has had all season. In his post-game interview, Head coach, Jack Capuano pointed out that the team with the fewest shots wound up with the loss each game of the series. The team lacked aggression both, on offense and defense as Captain, John Tavares noted, it seemed as though the team didn’t want to make a mistake.
Of course, fans and players alike were looking forward to making it deep this year, however, this is a young team, many players under 25 years old; it will be an exciting few years for the Islander as they continue to gain experience and momentum.
While the team is good, there is still room for improvement, many of the issues that plague the team are ones that can be fixed before next year. Obviously when a team is eliminated from the playoffs in round one the coach often takes a lot of the blame. While the players did not play effectively last night, coaching is certainly a factor. This is a young team, and Capuano is not as seasoned as other head coaches, especially those who have had teams make it past the first round year after year. Capuano has in a sense grown with this young team, and may have reached the limit with them. The team who now has more playoff experience may need a veteran coach to take them to the next level. Jack Capuano has made quite a few questionable moves in terms of setting the roster each game throughout the season, and while he must have had his reasons, some of which may not be visible to an outsider, it looked as though the lack of consistency hurt the team’s productivity.
Coaching will only take a team so far though; in the end it’s still up to the team to be effective on the ice. The Islanders, who averaged nearly 30 shots on goal per game, need to work on scoring and being more direct in getting the puck on net. The team has a star center in John Tavares, but cannot seem to find the solid winger he needs. Last off-season, Islanders GM, Garth Snow brought in defensemen, Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy who have proven to be an integral part of the team’s core. Hopefully this trend will continue, perhaps acquiring someone on par with Chicago’s Patrick Sharp to play wing for Tavares.
The other issue that the team needs to work on, as made glaringly obvious by this playoff series, is their power play. The Islanders were the only team to not score a power play goal in the first round of the playoffs. The team ranks 16th on the power play with only a power play percentage of just 18.7. Last night, the Islanders were given a power play with just under three minutes left in the game, they need to take advantage and convert on those opportunities if they want to continue to grow and be successful.
In addition to their power play, their penalty kill has proven to be a struggle, ranking 26th in the league on the kill. This issue could be helped by a change in coaching, as Jack Capuano at times failed to put his strongest D pair out on the penalty kill, however, it is also up to the team to be aggressive and focused.
Overall, the team’s final season at Nassau Coliseum was a successful one, and is one that fans and players can be proud of. It will be interesting to see what moves are made in the off season as the team prepares to start its 15 year contract playing at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.