NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals. Capitals-Islanders coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
Tuesday’s Islanders opponents, the Capitals, have enjoyed immediate returns from their big 2021 NHL Trade Deadline splash, as Anthony Mantha has four goals and six points through six games with Washington. When it comes to the Islanders’ own trade deadline additions — most importantly, Kyle Palmieri — they might feel a wee bit of envy toward the Capitals.
It’s really early, mind you. But so far, the Islanders aren’t seeing instant results in a way that would serve as a sequel to Jean-Gabriel Pageau making a great first impression.
Islanders’ trade deadline addition Palmieri not off to a great scoring start
To be precise, Kyle Palmieri scored one goal and one assist for two points through his first nine games with the Islanders. Not ideal after a package of Palmieri and Zajac cost the Islanders a first-rounder and change.
Now, it’s also not the end of the world. Digging deeper into Palmieri’s numbers should at least stomp out the sweatiest Islanders panic.
To little surprise, the puck luck hasn’t been abundant. Palmieri’s averaged just under two shots on goal per game (17 SOG in those nine), so his one goal translates to a 5.9 shooting percentage. That’s low compared to a tepid 2020-21 season (Palmieri’s shooting percentage with the Devils this season: 9.5), and quite low compared to how he’s been sniping in the NHL (12.5 career shooting percentage).
Dig even more, and Palmieri’s bad luck has been even more pronounced over nine Islanders games. So far, his on-ice shooting percentage was an extremely low 1.8%. The bounces haven’t been going the Islanders’ way when Palmieri’s on the ice — even when he’s not the one shooting.
Those numbers should rebound for the veteran winger.
[ISLANDERS-CAPITALS COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]
And, generally speaking, his underlying stats have been perfectly fine. That said, maybe Barry Trotz should experiment with some other approaches?
Thus far, Palmieri’s most frequent even-strength Islanders linemates have been Brock Nelson and Michael Dal Colle. Nelson, in particular, could theoretically work well with Palmieri, especially if the Islanders merely want to use him in a supporting role.
Maybe a little tinkering might bring about some positive results, though? Could Palmieri be the finisher to Mathew Barzal‘s elite playmaking? Perhaps that’s an alignment that would make more sense if the Islanders were trailing. Either way, they haven’t lined up together very often. So, some food for thought.
(A possible compromise could be to keep Barzal and Palmieri separate, but to see if he might click with another Islanders forward, such as Josh Bailey, Jordan Eberle, or even fellow high-level-shooter Oliver Wahlstrom?)
Not the only trade deadline addition struggling
Far and away, Kyle Palmieri is the most important addition from the Islanders’ 2021 NHL Trade Deadline spree.
Still, to be fair to Palmieri, he’s not the only one struggling to get going. Travis Zajac has been in and out of the Islanders lineup lately, and hasn’t been able to make much of an impact (including a Palmieri-like 1G, 1A in 8 GP). Braydon Coburn was an addition based purely for depth, but he’s also barely been used.
On one hand, this is all about the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Former Devils and Penguins GM Ray Shero said as much to Arthur Staple of The Athletic (sub. required).
“Those guys could have 10 points each, and if the Islanders don’t do anything in the playoffs, nobody’s going to remember how they played right after the deadline,” Shero said. “The goal is to win the Cup, right? They’re going to be in the playoffs, and Lou picked those two players because he thinks they’ll help that team win a Cup. A few so-so games doesn’t change that.”
True, but including games like Tuesday’s vs. the Capitals, the Islanders might also make their trip through the playoffs tougher if they can’t get on track. Those new faces could help.
Feeling a little ‘disconnected’
Dropping a 1-0 shootout loss to the Capitals probably didn’t phase the Islanders much on Thursday. But after the Capitals beat the Islanders 6-3 on Saturday, the team spoke about feeling “disconnected.”
“I felt like at times we weren’t necessarily connected,” Adam Pelech said. “We were kind of all over the place at times, we weren’t playing our game, which is predictable hockey, five guys working as a unit up and down the ice and I think we got away from that a bit. If we get in those track meet kind of games, especially against a team like Washington, we’re not going to win very many of them.”
Few teams generally seem as “connected” as the Islanders have under Barry Trotz, so they have to hope that they get on the same page vs. the Capitals, and going forward. Bonus points if Palmieri and other additions start to seem a bit more seamless.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.