Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
What we're seeing lately with regard to the New York Islanders is not unprecedented. The team is suffering from what I warned of, in print and on the Secondary Assist podcast: A regression. All teams go through it. The larger question is, how soon until they get out of it?
The answer to that will ultimately decide their 2017-18 fate, not the sole fact that they suffered one.
- Anyone missing Nikolay Kulemin yet? I'm sure the Islanders and their abysmal penalty kill do. Sure, he's overpaid at a $4.5 million AAV, but he's a vital member of the four-man unit literally dragging the team down during this slide.
- The Islanders have allowed power play goals in eight of their last nine games, giving up two over four consecutive outings. The unit is 14 for their last 26 (53.8 percent), dropping them to 72.8 percent on the season -- just ahead of the Edmonton Oilers for dead last in the National Hockey League.
- The nightly softie occurred in the second period with the game scoreless, and the Bruins on the power play. Brad Marchand enters the Islanders zone with too much room, takes a snapshot at the net from the top of the circle that bounces in off Jaroslav Halak's pads and between the wickets. Those kinds of goals allowed are killing the Islanders right now.
- You can blame the goaltenders all you want, and they certainly deserve some of your wrath with an .898 team save percentage and, at least, one soft goal seemingly nightly as previously mentioned. But the defense -- from the defensemen out to the forwards -- has been terrible, something I wish I wasn't right to concern myself with over the summer.
- Ryan Pulock has shown increased confidence lately, a result of being put into the lineup. That is the only way he is going to learn, and for the Islanders to see what they have in the 23-year-old. The only thing that bothers me about his game recently is his reluctance to shoot the puck, which is baffling. He has passed up some glorious opportunities to showcase his cannon or get the puck to the net.
- Why is Scott Mayfield sitting? I understand head coach Doug Weight's desire to keep his eight-man rotation fresh as the season drags on. But is it prudent with the team struggling so much in their own zone to sit who is clearly your most improved player? Outside of Mathew Barzal, I can't think of anyone who has pleasantly surprised more.
- Speaking of Barzal, the electric rookie is still taking a run at a point-per-game pace as his assist last night gives him 28 points in 29 games. With Clayton Keller struggling, right now it's a two-horse race for the Calder between him and Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks (15-12-27).
- You have to love the game Andrew Ladd is playing right now. This is the winger the Islanders signed as a free agent in the summer of 2016. Slightly offpace offensively (7 goals in 29 games, pace of 20), he is showing much smoother skating due to a now healthy back, and much needed grit and toughness. Once again, there he was last night coming to the aid of Thomas Hickey in a scuffle with David Backes, who ended up getting a major for head-butting Ladd.
- Joshua Ho-Sang has had his moments, both good and bad, and that's to be expected when you're dealing with a player of his talents and personality. He, like many others on this team, seems allergic to shooting the puck. Last night on the power play, he had many chances to throw the puck on Tuuka Rask with traffic in the low slot, but instead opted for that frustrating curl and reset.
- How good is Anders Lee in front of the net? So strong and tough to reposition, once he sets up shop, he affords himself so many scoring chances its ridiculous. If not already, Lee is going to find himself in the discussion of top power forwards in all of hockey before long. We are 29 games in and he's halfway to his 2016-17 goal total (34).
- It's December and the trade market is historically quiet this time of year. There is no help coming for the defensive and goaltending issues. For now, it's what you see is what you get. And what the Islanders have gotten recently must improve. They play eight of their next 11 in Brooklyn, where they have been dominant, at 8-1-2.