Jack Capuano threw down the the gauntlet. Whether his stars pick it up remains to be seen.
A few minutes after the Islanders dropped a 2-1 decision to the Washington Capitals in Game 4 Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum to even the Metropolitan Division Semifinals at two games apiece, Capuano publicly called out his top nine forwards for a lack of production.
"No," Capuano said when asked if the Islanders were receiving enough from their top three lines.
Following the first four games of the best-of-seven, Josh Bailey leads the Islanders with four points. Two-thirds of the top line, Kyle Okposo and John Tavares, are tied for second with three points apiece. Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, Cal Clutterbuck, Nick Leddy and Lubomir Visnovsky are next with two points each.
"I think guys know [it's] probably time for a change," Capuano said. "Guys are squeezing their sticks a little bit. You can see the energy and the confidence and the swagger those guys play with and we need to get more. There's no question our guys are giving it everything they have but at the end of the day, your best players have to be your best players."
If only that was Capuano's lone issue heading into Game 5 Thursday in Washington (7 p.m., MSG+).
The Islanders' coach lamented the lack of depth on the blueline. Second pair defenseman Travis Hamonic hasn't played in the series due to what the team has called an undisclosed injury, and his loss was exacerbated when Visnovsky was lost for the remainder of Game 4 following a thunderous hit by Capitals right wing Tom Wilson.
Visnovsky laid prone on the ice for several moments before being helped back to the Islanders' locker room. After the game, Capuano said there was "no update" on Visnovsky's condition. Without Visnovsky, Capuano was forced to increase the ice time for the remaining five defensemen. The top pair of Johnny Boychuk and Leddy finished with 30 minutes and 27:52 respectively; Thomas Hickey, Calvin de Haan and Brian Strait logged 25:42, 22:59 and 24:10.
"I thought our guys gave it everything they got but you're not going to play a 60-plus minute game. It gets real grueling on our defense. They played a lot of minutes. A lot of guys played a lot of power play time. I gave them credit but it's tough when you go down to five and I thought they did a pretty good job for us," Capuano said, before offering his opinion on Wilson's hit. "On the bench, my view is he left his feet. That's what I saw. [I] can't say anything more than that. I haven't really viewed it but that's what it looked like to me."
More than simply allowing Capuano to more evenly distribute minutes amongst the defense corps, not having Visnovsky limited a power play that has malfunctioned through the first four games of the best-of-seven.
The NHL's 16th best power play in the regular season is 0-for-10 against Washington, including 0-for-4 Tuesday night. More damning is that the Islanders had three straight power plays in the second period with the game tied 1-1 but could not take advantage of the Capitals' rambunctiousness.
"Three straight power plays, we didn't generate a whole lot," Capuano said. "I think we had one or two chances. You look back at the game, that's a turning point for me."