Islanders’ penalty kill keeps Rangers in check

Prior to Friday’s Islanders-Rangers game, Barry Trotz was looking at the numbers and realized that at five-on-five there was little to no difference between the two teams.

And, while the Rangers are among the league’s best on the power play, that suited the Islanders just fine.

“Obviously it’s [associate coach] way [Lambert’s] strong and that’s his area of ​​expertise,” Trotz said. “He puts his heart and soul into it and the players understand that. He has good fits and good reads and we have good smart players in those roles as well.

It showed again in a clean three-for-three performance in Friday’s 3-0 win over Rangers, the Islanders are 22 for 25 (88%) on the kill since injury and have just ended the second-best power play in the league in percentage.

In a sparsely contested game where the Islanders mostly managed to play their even-strength style, two penalties in the first period could have derailed things. Instead, they came and went, four minutes on the clock, and little hassle. That’s how it’s been lately.

Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov

The Islanders have taken the fewest penalties of any team in the league, and yes, playing their 67th game on Friday, they’ve more or less caught up to the other 31 teams in that category. Although much of the machinery that made them so good in the two seasons before this one broke down, that cog kept working.

That’s largely thanks to Semyon Varlamov – who made 27 saves on Friday – and Ilya Sorokin, who combined to put the Islands second in the league in shorthanded save percentage.

But it’s not just a balancing act on the part of goalkeepers.

“We have a lot of guys who can kill,” Casey Cizikas said.

On Friday, the Islanders once again proved the truth.

Prior to the game, Trotz knocked down the Islanders penalty killers at fullback, all of whom have contributed recently. It was out of necessity.

When Scott Mayfield and Cal Clutterbuck were injured late in the season at the trade deadline, the clearest point of impact for the Islanders was the penalty kill.

At the time, Clutterbuck led all Island forwards in ice time at four to five. His style of play – sharp, straight, hard-hitting and confident with the puck – is perfect for the penalty kill. Ironically, his ability there was perhaps the main reason for suspecting Clutterbuck would be on the move at the deadline, before signing an extension and undergoing season-ending surgery.

Without him, however, a shorthanded Islanders who had been among the best in the league…remained among the best in the league.

Andy Greene missed his second game in a row, despite participating in warm-ups.

Robin Salo was sent to AHL Bridgeport after an emergency recall.

New York Post

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