Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Another game where the Islanders enter the third period tied. Another game where the Islanders come away with zero points.
In what has become an ugly, repetitive pattern for the 2016-17 Islanders, they surrendered two goals to Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen in the third period of a 4-2 loss.
Niskanen, who came into the game with zero goals, notched his first on a precise snap-shot over the blocker of Jaroslav Halak after the Islanders forgot how to play basic defense. His second came in the closing minutes, on a power play, a slap shot that seemingly went right through Halak, who did not look to be screened on the play.
The loss, the Islanders' second straight after a 5-0-1 run, has dropped them to 11-12-5 on the season, and marked the 12th time they have been tied entering the third period. Their record in such games? 4-5-3. With other results filtering in after the game, it also puts them firmly back in last place, 16th out of 16 Eastern Conference teams. Sportsclubstats has dropped their 2017 playoff chances from 9 percent to an NHL low 5 percent.
If you think it's enough to drive fans mad, think about what it's doing to the players. Cal Clutterbuck spoke extensively last week about the belief the players in the room can work through this together, as a unified group. That, I believe, is still true for most. But not all.
Frustrations are finally starting to permeate through to the media in postgame discussions. Last night, it went a step further as head coach Jack Capuano once again seemed to speak about players not pulling their weight and a lack of options given to him by GM Garth Snow.
Offensively, the Islanders rank 18th in goals, 19th in shots, 29th on the power play and 22nd in faceoffs. Ryan Strome continues to look absolutely lost under current leadership. Newcomers Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera did not record a shot attempt last night and are just not making any difference or having much positive effect on a consistent basis.
With Adam Pelech on IR and the team still inexplicably carrying three goaltenders, Alan Quine is the only spare forward and was the healthy scratch last night. That's not really much to work with in terms of bringing accountability to poor play.
"I'm losing my patience with some of these guys, and you have to hold guys accountable," Capuano said postgame. "We got some decisions that we need to make. We don't have a lot of guys in the bullpen, but we will talk with management and see where we go from here".
Capuano never sells out players by name to the press and did not last night when asked. But you have to think he was talking about Strome and Ladd, especially first and foremost, when he uttered these lines in his press conference. "It's frustrating, because you know the ability is there. I don't know where it's gone," he said. "I'm talking about keeping the puck on your stick, possessing the puck, just not throwing it away. Getting the puck and just handing it back to the other team? Where's the poise, where's the confidence? Those are the things I'm talking about."
This is not the first time Capuano has reverted to this kind of talk this season, and it seemed to have some impact during the six game points streak that now seems like weeks ago to some.
Sadly, just like that, New York has slipped back to old bad habits, allowing tons of shots and scoring chances, mismanaging possession and literally shooting four glorious, third-period scoring opportunities right into the chest of Capitals netminder Braden Holtby when the score was still 3-2.
It's gotten to the point where Halak doesn't even know what's going on with the team in front of him.
"Turnovers right now, last couple of games, are killing us," he said. "It's frustrating to keep losing games the same way. We're in game after second period, go into the third and find a way to lose the game. I don't know what's going on. Everyone has to come out more ready, I guess, and create our own luck. We have to go the net, throw it at the net, might go off a shinpad, skate, and could be a huge goal for us. Bottom line, we just need to find a way."
With one report having Halak voicing his displeasure last year with the crowded crease situation, then agent Allen Walsh taking to Twitter over the same exact thing this year, Snow put the goaltender on the trade market and SNY has not been told he's off.
After a stellar World Cup, he has started 18 of the Islanders' 28 games, sporting a record of 5-8-0 with a 3.13 goals against average (league average is 2.55) and .907 save percentage (league average is .915). Meanwhile, Thomas Greiss, who led the team past Florida last season in the opening round of the playoffs, and the one whom the team seems more composed in front of, sits and ponders his own future as a potential unrestricted free agent.
Beyond the box:
Casey Cizikas had his arm slashed by the skate of teammate Anders Lee in the first period. "Doc did a fantastic job stitching me up. It takes a lot more than that to keep me out of the game" Cizikas said. ... The Islanders were outshot 67-52 (56-44 at even strength) with shots on goal ending up 38-28 (31-21 at even strength). They were chasing the game in the second and third periods, especially. ...Alex Ovechkin was held scoreless for the third straight game against New York. He had seven shot attempts in 16:01 last night. ...John Tavares led all skaters in ice time for the first time this year at 21:52. He also had seven shot attempts and went 14-12 on faceoffs.