California Road Trip in Review
By Joe Bilello
After a long home stand the Islanders hit the west coast to play three competitive teams in California, The Anaheim Ducks, La Kings, and San Jose Sharks. Before the Islanders left I expected five points in three games (two wins one overtime loss) considering they tend to do well against west coast teams, but that did not happen. Although the Islanders did not meet my expectations positives did come out of the road trip.
The following were positives to come out of the road trip:
Anders Lee: after struggling in the beginning of the season Lee turned his game around and scored three goals during the three game road trip. Lee’s game is going to the front of the net and feeding off of rebounds and deflections which he is very good at. We saw his skill last year with his game winning redirection goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins winning a net front battle with elite defenseman Kris Letang. Jack Capuano said he believes the team has been playing well it’s just individuals have to find “their game within the game” and Lee has certainly responded and started playing his game again. Let’s hope this is a confidence booster for Lee.
Special teams: the Islanders were 2/8 on the power play during the road trip (25%) and killed 4/5 penalties (80%.) The special teams struggled in the beginning of the season and was certainly a factor that needed improvement. If this success on special teams carries on the Isles season will certainly improve.
Discipline: Rick Dipietro said during one of the Lightning games (they took a lot of penalties against the lightning and it cost them) “Taking 3 penalties a game is okay it shows they are being aggressive, but taking more than three is not okay.” The isles took five penalties the whole road trip (10 minutes overall,) on top of that they stayed physical putting up 87 hits in the three game stint (29 a game on average.)
Although the road trip was under 500 record wise there were some positives that came out of the trip.
The following were negatives to come out of the road trip:
Andrew Ladd and Ryan Strome, After signing a seven year 38.5 million dollar contract Ladd has failed to produce thus far and many say he was a bust. Many free agents that signed this past off season have been struggling early in the season, for example Loui Eriksson. Eriksson signed with the Vancouver Canucks and until recently has failed to produce, he took fourteen games to score his first goal but has been scoring more recently. Vancouver gave Eriksson a chance to turn his game around by continuing to let him play on the first and second lines where he usually plays. Hopefully Capuano will let Ladd play on the skilled lines as opposed to the fourth line where he has been playing recently. Hopefully Ladd will adjust to the Islanders and start producing again. Just like Ladd, Ryan Strome isn’t being given the opportunity he deserves. Ryan Strome was selected fifth overall in 2011 for being a skilled player, in 2014-15 his rookie year Strome put up 50 points playing with Nelson and Lee. Capuano should center Strome on the second line with Ladd on the wing and Prince or Beauvillier on the opposite wing. If that line is formed Ladd can be a veteran mentor playing with young players in Strome, Prince, and/or Beauvillier creating a line similar to the Huberdeau- Barkov- Jagr line in Florida.
Late goals, This is for certain the biggest problem in the Islanders season thus far. The LA and San Jose games were for the most part good games by the isles, but late goals in both games caused the losses. If all the games this whole season that were lost in the last few minutes were wins for the Islanders, they would have a significantly better record.
I personally believe the road trip overall was a success and showed a sign of light. This is because the team started to find their identity. If the positives I stated continue to be positives and the negatives turn into positives then the Islanders will be significantly better and return to a playoff spot.