Spend any amount of time around Islanders head coach Jack Capuano and the theme of process reveals itself quickly.
The coach of the New York Islanders often speaks about how he believes his team should play. Should they play the way he requires, reasons Capuano, they will be successful more often than not.
So it should not have been surprising that he wasn’t irritated by what very easily could have been a frustrating 2-1 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks Sunday at Barclays Center.
“I’m not disappointed in the effort,” Capuano said. The Islanders outshot Vancouver, 48-26, and out-attempted the Canucks 94-51. “I’m not really worried about how many games we’ve lost or how many games we’ve won. The task at hand is to make sure we’re getting better.”
As the Islanders enter their final three games before the All-Star Break, they find themselves in second place in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the Rangers.
“We’ve played three pretty good games this week,” Kyle Okposo said. “Got five out of six points.”
Still, dating back to the start of the new year, the Islanders are 3-3-1. And for every impressive win—such as the 3-1 win over the Rangers on Jan. 14 at Barclays—there have been head scratching losses like the 4-0 defeat to the Flyers on Jan. 9.
“Maybe a little puck luck is what we need,” said Ryan Strome, whose goal with 50.8 seconds left in regulation against the Canucks forced overtime. “If we keep playing the way we’ve been playing the last two or three games, we’ll win a lot of games.”
Following the loss to the Canucks, the Islanders have been outscored by an average of 3.28-2.57 in the seven games they have played this month. Oddly, the Islanders have outshot their opponents 252-234—an average of 36-33.4 per game—in that stretch.
“We had so many chances,” Stome said. “Second and third, even the first. Kind of the way it’s going right now. It’s frustrating.”
The Islanders’ offensive frustrations can be distilled to the person of John Tavares. The franchise cornerstone hasn’t scored a goal since the 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Jan. 2. Tavares ranks second on the team in goals (15), assists (16) and points (31).
“When you’re an elite player and you want to win, (and) things aren’t going your way offensively, yeah, it’s going to be frustrating a little bit,” Capuano said of Tavares, who will represent the Islanders in the All-Star Game. “He worked extremely hard, did a lot of good things for us. It’s going to come for him.
“For me as a coach, you can’t take shortcuts, you can’t cheat. And he hasn’t done that.”
While Capuano backed his star, he may temporarily lose another top-six forward. Mikhail Grabovski was ejected for boarding Henrik Sedin in the first period Sunday. Sedin, who leads the Canucks in assists with 28 and is second on the team in points with 37, did not return to the game and was to be examined by team doctors Monday.
“The NHL will make a decision,” Capuano said. “They always rule; they’ve always done their job. We’ll see what they have to say.”
You can follow NHL writer Denis P. Gorman on Twitter at @DenisGorman