For not the first time in the 2016-17 National Hockey League season, Jack Capuano stood behind the podium and uttered a threat.
The ultimatum was borne out of irritation from another night in which certain unnamed members of his New York Islanders underperformed.
“We have some guys who (don’t) have an impact right now, ” Capuano said after the Islanders’ 4-2 loss to the Capitals Tuesday night at Barclays Center. The Islanders dropped to an Eastern Conference-worst 11-12-5. Only Vancouver (26), Arizona (25) and Colorado (23) have fewer points than the Islanders, who have 27.
“They have to find their way. It’s (been) consistent here now. We’ve always been a type of team where we need all 20 guys going if we’re going to have success,” Capuano continued. “We’re giving them ice time. We’re trying to show as much video as we can. But at the same time, trying to stay positive with those individuals who are struggling. At some point maybe they best sit back and watch a game. We’ve done that in the past, too. We have some decisions we need to make.
“It’s tough for those guys right now. Hopefully we can get them going (because) the makeup of our team, we need all 20.”
Against the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners, the Islanders received one shot and two shot attempts from the quartet of Andrew Ladd, Ryan Strome, Jason Chimera and Anthony Beauvillier. It simply wasn’t enough, especially as Washington finished with decided advantages in shots on goal (38-28) and attempted shots (67).
“I’m talking about the intangibles of the game,” Capuano said. “You want to have the puck, possess the puck, in the offensive zone. I thought (John Tavares’) line was great down there with (Josh Bailey and Anders Lee). Brock (Nelson) was on that line so there are guys who can do it, drive the analytics the way you want to drive them. And then there are the guys who drive (the analytics) down.”
Entering Wednesday's home match against the Blackhawks, the Islanders’ 44.8 Corsi For percentage is tied with Arizona for worst in the league, according to hockey-reference.com. And their 46.0 Fenwick For percentage is 29th in the league, ahead of only Arizona’s 43.9 percent.
Individually, Beauvillier’s 47.0 percent Corsi For rating is eighth on the team. Chimera is 14th at 44.6 percent, followed by Ladd’s 44.5 percent. Strome’s 42.6 percent is tied with Alan Quine for 18th. Further examination reveals Beauvillier’s 47.9 percent Fenwick For is eighth on the team. Ladd ranks 16th at 45.5 percent, followed by Chimera (45.3 percent) and Strome (44.1 percent).
Essentially, those numbers disclose the Islanders—as a collective—and the foursome are routinely being outshot. Historically, under Capuano, the Islanders philosophy has been to yield shots from the perimeter.
Through 28 games this season, Islander goaltenders are facing quality shots. Analytical website Corsica.hockey has Jaroslav Halak having faced 110 high-danger shots while Thomas Greiss has had 58 such shots fired his way. Of the 110 high danger shots Halak has faced, 22 went for goals. Greiss has allowed 12 goals on his 58 high danger shots.
But not all goals allowed are the fault of the goaltender. Take, for instance, Matt Niskanen’s game-winning goal Tuesday night. Just 1:34 into the third period, the Capitals shutdown defenseman wired an unobstructed shot from the top of the left circle that beat Halak cleanly. On the play, however, all five Islander skaters were either behind the goal line or on the right side of the ice.
Essentially, Niskanen had ample time and space to take aim and fire a shot.
“If the winger can’t get out, the center should switch,” said Capuano, when asked to break down the mistakes on the game-deciding goal. “A weak side forward should not be coming over to the strong side forward. So on the D-to-D pass…walk right down Main Street. That’s something we preach and teach. Breakdown. Our focus wasn’t there on that play and cost us the game.”