Such is the Islanders’ current predicament that scoring a single goal feels like a mark of progress.
Here is the situation for the Metropolitan Division’s bottom-dwellers after Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Rangers:
They have scored three goals in three games at UBS Arena, Andy Andreoff finally breaking a dry spell Wednesday at 3:32 in the third period. The player who leads the team in goals — Brock Nelson — is on IR for the next three to five weeks. The Islanders finished Wednesday’s game with six power-play opportunities, but they could not score on the man-advantage, bringing their November total to 1-for-27.
“We’re gonna need a special-teams goal, a power-play goal, a five-on-five timely goal,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We’re gonna need those moments after you score a goal, that next shift we can’t have them score.”
That problem is not new, but it added up to something familiar: a seventh straight loss. All have been by three goals or more.
Argue all you want about whether this game should have been played with seven Islanders in COVID-19 protocol. The standings do not care. The Islanders are 5-9-2. And it was the top-line players — not the call-ups — who Trotz demanded more production from Wednesday.
“We’ve got some guys that are dry and we’re getting on to 15, 16 games,” Trotz said. “It’s hard to win hockey games when we’re a little bit depleted, I think everybody knows that. And so you need people to find ways to produce. We ask them to be very responsible and take care of the puck on both sides, but we’re gonna need some production.”
That would be a reference to Kyle Palmieri (one goal), Zach Parise (zero goals) and the Identity Line (two combined goals — both Casey Cizikas).
“It’s tough,” Cizikas said when asked about the offensive struggles. “We’re working. That’s the thing is we’re working hard, we’re trying to get in those spots. We’re trying to get on those rebounds and they’re just not falling for us right now. I think that’s the frustrating thing is guys are working, guys are trying.”
The Islanders’ current issues are not just limited to scoring, or even limited to on-ice play. But their calamitous start to the season now poses a serious threat to their playoff chances. This will be an uphill climb, and there is still a ways to go before the roster will be made whole again.
So, some goals would be of help.
“We’re staying positive,” Sebastian Aho said. “We know what we can do.”
But the Islanders are running out of time to do it.