Practice And Philosophy Has Helped Islanders Power Play Come Alive

Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire

When you think about the success that the Islanders have had over the last few seasons, it’s almost hard to believe that they accomplished what they did with a power play that wasn’t very successful.  In the 2018-19 season, the Islanders ranked 29th in the NHL with a power play percentage of 14.5.  Last season, the Islanders’ power play operated at 17.3 percent which placed them 25th in the league and then in the playoffs, the power play dipped to a percentage of 15.4.

If the power play had just been a little bit better in the bubble, the Islanders might have been able to go even further than game six of the Eastern Conference Final.

“We’ve had problems in the past where if it didn’t work on the first try, then we’d get guys on their own page and try to reinvent the power play based on thirty seconds or a minute of power play time and then they want to reinvent it,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz.

Things did not start out well this season for the Islanders power play as well. They went 6 for 38 over the first nine games of the season for a percentage of 15.8 including a 1 for 6 night on the power play against the Flyers in a 4-3 overtime loss on January 31st at Philadelphia.  But then things began to change when the Islanders’ next two games against the Buffalo Sabres were postponed as a result of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

The Islanders Used Extra Practice Time To Work On The Power Play:

That gave the Islanders five days off before their next game and that was a chance to go back to the drawing board and fix the power play and in the seven games since then, the Islanders have gone 5 for 11 on the power play (45%).  It all started on February 6th with a power play goal from Captain Anders Lee to snap a 3-3 tie in the third period and lift the Islanders to a 4-3 win over the Penguins.

UNIONDALE, NY – FEBRUARY 13: New York Islanders Left Wing Anders Lee (27) controls the puck behind the Boston Bruin’s goal during the second period of the National Hockey League game between the Boston Bruins and the New York Islanders on February 13, 2021, at the Nassau Veterans Coliseum in Uniondale, NY. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

“I think our units have done a good job of releasing the puck and finding in moments of distress for retrieving a puck getting it back and getting it under control,” said Lee.  “We’re using those outs to bring the puck to the net so I think just in a sense it’s everything kind of coming together a little bit.  Right now, our guys are seeing the ice pretty well.”

The Islanders haven’t had a ton of power play opportunities since having that extra practice time to focus on fixing the man advantage.   Eleven chances in seven games in not a huge sample size but while it may not completely signal that everything has been repaired, it certainly is a step in the right direction.  The power play certainly helped the Islanders extend their points streak to eight games, a run than ended with Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

The Islanders are hoping their power play success continues and it helps them start a new streak when they face the Penguins again on Saturday night at PPG Pains Arena.

“I think we’re creating a lot of chances,” said Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy.  We’re shooting when we can and I think a big thing was just our break-ins.  We’re attacking and we’re creating opportunities and we’ve been capitalizing.”

With The Power Play Working, The Islanders Have Been Surging: 

The current seven game power play surge has boosted the Islanders to an overall power play percentage of 22.4 which places them 14th in the NHL.  The Islanders have also put up a record of 5-1-1 over the last seven games and the power play is a big reason why the Isles have been able to turn things around and climb up the ladder of the East Division.

All it took was getting everyone on the same page.

“It’s not necessarily anything else other than philosophy and execution and doing what is put in front of us and not deviating from that,” said Trotz.  “I think we’re putting more pucks in play and then using our instinct and our structure to make plays off of that and therefore having a little more production.”

The Islanders figured that because of the pandemic, changes to the schedule were inevitable.  While five days off in-between games in the regular season is not ideal, the Isles’ break during the first week of February was actually a blessing in di0sguise as it gave them the opportunity to focus on special teams work including a focus on what had been their struggling power play.  Not only have they started to find the back of the net with the man advantage, but they’ve been doing it at critical times in games.  With all of the games this season taking place within the division, special teams are going to play a huge role going forward and a successful power play is going to be important if the Islanders are going to not only make the playoffs but also make another run like the did last season.

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is a contributor covering the Islanders for NY Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club.

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