Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
The New York Islanders rank second in the NHL in goals (123), trailing only the Tampa Bay Lightning. They have two of the top five point-getters in the league in John Tavares (21-24-45) and Josh Bailey (10-35-45). Tavares and Anders Lee's 21 goals are two off the league lead (Nikita Kucherov, Alex Ovechkin). Dynamic rookie Mathew Barzal is second in rookie scoring behind Vancouver's Brock Boeser (9-23-32). Jordan Eberle has been a terrific addition with 13 goals in 35 games.
The gaudy offensive numbers that propelled the Islanders to a 16-8-2 start as of Dec. 4 are all nice to look at. That brand of play indicates a team high on confidence in its goaltending, assuming the big save will come when it's needed most to ocmpensate for all their pressing in the offensive zone.
Problem is, New York's goaltenders have not held up their end of the bargain, which threatens to derail a season that has seen the team begin its ascent, from emerging stars in Barzal and Eberle to getting approval on securing a new home in Belmont, all while waiting for a contract extension with the franchise cornerstone Tavares.
Fully realizing hockey is a team game and the team defense has been atrocious in front of Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss, the Corsi advanced metrics show a scarier image than the recent Stephen King adaptation of "It."
Let's start with Halak, who was resurrected after last season's three-goalie fiasco and trip to Bridgeport, and finished 2016-17 on a fantastic note.
Rankings are of goalies who have played at least 700 minutes:
5v5 low-danger save percentage: 26/30 (96.2 percent)
5v5 medium-danger save percentage: 7/30 (93.3 percent)
5v5 high-danger save percentage: 7/30 (87.8 percent)
All situations LDS percentage: 34/38 (96 percent)
All situations MDS percentage: 25/38 (90.1 percent)
All situations HDS percentage: 22/38 (79.2 percent)
Of the numbers above, the one that stands out the most must be low-danger 5v5, where Halak is only better than four qualified goalies. In all situations, he's not much better, ranking 34th. These are saves that the team needs to have, especially early in games. New York has made a habit of playing from behind, an exhausting task to undertake on a repeated basis. It's been one or two low-danger goals against seemingly every game.
Greiss is hardly excluded here, as the numbers get even worse.
5v5 low-danger save percentage: 13/30 (98.2 percent)
5v5 medium-danger save percentage: 18/30 (91.1 percent)
5v5 high-danger save percentage: 30/30 (69.8 percent)
All situations LDS percentage: 21/38 (97.3 percent)
All situations MDS percentage: 28/38 (90.5 percent)
All situations HDS percentage: 38/38 (67.8 percent)
Greiss, who is having his worst year as a regular (3.83, .883, six quality starts), ranks dead last in high-danger save percentage at both even strength and in all situations. The fact he is only 13th and 21st in low danger save percentage makes his season look even worse.
With Calvin de Haan looking to miss an extended period and Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield all "feeling" their way around being NHL regulars, the forwards have not helped improve the Islanders' putrid defensive numbers, either. New York is tied with the Arizona Coyotes for last in the league at 124 goals allowed, the Islanders having played one fewer game.
Head coach Doug Weight needs to sit down with his assistants to figure out how to get his forwards to play more responsible defensive hockey and not fly out of the zone too early. They have been guilty of that on many occasions, sacrificing one or two goals per game off their impressive offensive stats for the betterment -- and maybe, survival -- of the 2017-18 season.
This style of play, when they're not getting the big (or sometimes even easy) save from their goaltenders, is just not sustainable, and New York, which finds itself still in possession of the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot, cannot rely on outside help. General manager Garth Snow isn't dealing any first-, or even second-round picks for a backup goaltender, as no team is looking, at this point, to move a starter.
Defensively, it's been said many times in the past (and rings true still to this day) that teams aren't dealing top-four defenseman -- ones that New York needs the most -- that play shut-down hockey in their own end. Take it for face value; it's up to the coaching staff to get much more out of the 18 skaters who dress in front of Halak and Greiss.
Instead of Snow calling Peter Chiarelli, maybe Weight should have Lou Lamoriello on speed dial and map out a neutral zone trap style of play, one that shuts down the opposition at the expense of offense, relying on smart counter-attacking.
All is not lost, but if the Islanders continue to bleed goals as they have (39 in their last nine games, 86.3 save percentage), it will be. It's hard to believe Halak and Greiss are this bad, and their career numbers clearly suggest otherwise. Sometimes, goaltenders have down years. It's unfortunate that both are having their down year simultaneously.
So they need to compensate for it.