Islanders ‘starting to click’ on power-plays


When the Islanders’ season reached its nadir in November and December, it was among several statistics to give a glimpse of grief: He scored a power-play goal in a month.

We are not talking about the past month, in which he has played six games and exists as a figment of the imagination for elaboration. We’re talking about 11 games in which he took 29 five-four chances and converted just one. So yeah, things get a lot worse.

But since then, their fortunes have turned. Not coincidentally, the Islanders have scored 10 of their last 30 in the power-play and have gone 6-2-3 during that stretch. It’s not even typical of the winning Islanders team – they’ve converted powerplays under coach Barry Trotz to a league average every year – but they’ve found a formula that works.

“I think a lot of the details that you work on in practice,” Jean-Gabriel Pageau said. “You try to change a few small details. We work a lot because we practice a lot. And the boys are starting to click.

Josh Bailey (12) celebrated his power-play goal against the Devils.

In particular, the difference in net and top is more significant. Anders Lee, who plays a net-front spot in the first power-play unit, scored power-play goals in two games before the team’s 11-day break between its last two games. After the Islanders return, Josh Bailey cleaned up a rebound from Anthony Beauvillier for a power-play goal against the Devils on Thursday night.

It is not an accident, but a product of positioning.

“We’re moving the puck fast and I think we’re delivering the puck to the net. That seems to be the most productive of our front of the net, and it has been,” said assistant coach Lane Lambert. “But we’re getting the puck to the net and when it gets there we have some good people.”

Noah Dobson and Robin Salo get there. The two defensemen are usually top, quarterback in power-play, and Dobson gets more minutes. Their aggressive growth has taken strides over the past six weeks, which is a particularly significant development in power-play.

During the Islanders’ dry spell, Dobson scored five-fourths on the ice, scoring 8.29 expected goals per 60 minutes for the Natural Stat Trick. That’s a solid rate, but Sebastian Aho was getting more minutes and the team was producing just 4.5 expected goals (xG) per 60 with him on the ice.

Since early December, Dobson has led all skaters in five-fourths of a minute, and with the second unit, Salon’s 6.7 xG per 60 is a significant improvement in Aho’s output. It doesn’t hurt that Dobson’s shot has become a weapon – he has scored all five of his goals this year in the last six weeks.

Noah Dobson
Noah Dobson celebrated after scoring a game-winning goal against the Oilers on Jan. 1.

“Noah is really into himself,” Lambert said. “They read great plays. I think they did a lot of work on their shot. I think their shot really improved. And that’s a factor for us upwards.

“And Robin, he’s a power-play guy. He’s working his way into that role and he’s also doing a good job of it.

Better puck movement led to more scoring, which led to more confidence – a cycle that strengthened itself.

“If you don’t get many goals but you do good things, you try to keep up,” Pageau said. “And now the pucks are starting to go in and confidence is increasing.”

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