Tavares: ‘Special teams are killing us right now’

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The fact that the Islanders have lost three straight without Kyle Okposo (torn retina) is concerning, but the big knock on New York isn’t a recent development. With 50 games in the books, the Islanders have been horrendous when it comes to killing penalties.

After surrendering four goals over their last seven shorthanded situations, their penalty kill has fallen to a dreadful 72.7%. The Islanders rank dead last in the NHL, more than a full percent behind the 15-33-3 Buffalo Sabres. They’ve managed to get by in spite of that during the regular season, but will that really be good enough when the stakes are raised?

“In the playoffs, it’s a big difference if the PK is working,” former Stanley Cup champion Johnny Boychuk told Newsday. “We just have to let (goaltender Jaroslav Halak) see the shots when we can and clear it when we can. It’s obviously not working right now.”

While the penalty kill looks like their biggest weakness at this point, Islanders captain John Tavares feels the issue is bigger than that.

“Our power play has been abysmal too,” Tavares said. “Special teams are killing us right now.”

The Islanders have converted on two of their last nine power-play opportunities, but they had the man advantage while down by a goal late in the third period of Tuesday’s game against Florida and couldn’t make anything happen. New York has a decent 19.6% power-play success rate so far this season, which is good for 10th place in the league.

New York will open a three-game road trip tonight against Philadelphia, which is another team that’s struggled when it comes to killing penalties. However, the Flyers are a dangerous 23.4% with the man advantage, so unless the Islanders can start to solve their shorthanded issues, they’ll need to play a very disciplined game.