The New York Islanders have now lost five consecutive games after dropping a 2-0 decision in Florida Sunday afternoon.
While Isles’ fans should be concerned, slumps like this one should not come as a big surprise for a young team like the Isles. Here is a look at some factors contributing to the club’s recent slump:
Goaltending: The good news is that Rick DiPietro is back, but in the short term, that’s also the bad news. It’s bad news because first, it disrupted Dwayne Roloson, who was on an absolute roll when he was the undisputed number one goalie, and second because DP needs time to get back into game shape and regain his old form. Nobody should have expected DiPietro to immediately return to his All-Star form of two years ago immediately upon his return. DP has shown flashes of excellence, but until his body re-adjusts to the wear and tear of an NHL schedule, there will be growing pains. On a team that needs to fight and claw to win every game, that can mean the difference between a win and a loss. DP is not the problem, but he is a factor. The good news is, this should get better with time.
Defense: The Isles’ do not have a lot of size or depth on defense and that was before Brendan Witt and Jack Hillen went down with injuries. Andy MacDonald has played very well in replacing Witt, but Hillen will be more difficult to replace. He was maturing and contributing in more ways as he gained experience and confidence that he could excel at the NHL level. Dustin Kohn has been OK in limited action, but it’s clear Scott Gordon doesn’t have a lot of confidence in him just yet in big situations. The slump coincides with Hillen’s injury and that’s no coincidence. We’ll see what happens when Witt returns from injury but right now, the Isles blue line can hardly be described as being among the league’s best.
Forwards: With youth comes inconsistency and the Islanders have plenty of both. John Tavares got off to a very hot start and scored 15 goals in his first 31 games. Since then, he has hit a wall and has only two goals in the last 25 games.
Matt Moulson has also slowed down, scoring only five goals in his last 25 contests.
The youngsters are not the only players slumping right now. Doug Weight has played well since his return from injury, but still has yet to score a goal this season. Trent Hunter has only one goal in his last 13 games and Frans Nielsen has just one goal in his last 17 games.
The power play and penalty kill have struggled this season. The Isles are ranked 28th in the league with the man advantage and also 28th while shorthanded. This team plays a lot of tight, close games and special teams can often be the difference between and win and a loss or even whether or not the Isles send a game to overtime and earn at least one point.
Prognosis: Folks, these are growing pains. It should be expected. DiPietro will regain his form the more he plays, Roloson is a reliable veteran and Tavares is too talented to slump for too long. Expect the Islanders to struggle at times, play very well at others and be part of the playoff race until at least late March.