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Isles facing shots (shots, shots, shots!)

1/14/2011

If the DJ out at Nassau Coliseum is looking for a fitting soundtrack to Isles games, he should consider cuing up Lil John and LMFAO.

Over their past 14 games, the Islanders have given up an average of 38.9 shots per contest, allowing over 40 in five of their last nine. Considering the league-high for shots-allowed average since the lockout has only once topped 35 for a season, that’s a pretty astounding volume the Isles’ netminders are facing.

Remarkably, Jack Capuano’s group is still 8-4-2 in those same 14 games, which is a massive testament to the team’s goaltenders. But Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators, Nathan Lawson and Kevin Poulin couldn’t withstand the barrage, yielding six goals through two periods and ultimately falling 6-4.

Though their goalies have often successfully faced those firing squads, this is a trend the Islanders need to solve. Two factors make this particularly important: 1.) The goalie that carried the Isles to four of those eight wins, Dwayne Roloson, now plays for the Tampa Bay Lightning. 2.) This is no way to build the confidence of kids the team sees anchoring the crease in years to come.

Through their first 42 games, New York has faced an average of 32.8 shots per game. That’s not good, but it’s not atrocious either. But if the Islanders continue to average 39 shots against for the remainder of the season they’d finish the year with a shots-against average of 35.8. That would be the highest season average for any NHL team since at least 1997-98 (which is earliest season I could find team stats on NHL.com). The next closest would be the 35.5 endured by the 2000-01 Atlanta Thrashers, the franchise’s third season in the league.

Are these statistics surprising given a young defense corps that lost its top member to injury (Mark Streit) and had its second-best traded away (James Wisniewski)? Probably not. And are these numbers just a short-term spike as the team adjusts to the absence of Wisniewski and Roloson? Possibly. Is this a small sample size? Absolutely. But it's a trend that seems to be heading in the wrong direction. In those last 14 games, all but one opponent (Edmonton) exceeded their average shots per game when they played the Islanders, so it's not just one or two fluky games.

Now, this isn’t meant to kick the Islanders when they’re down. Rather, I think it’s pretty darn notable that the team has been able to weather this kind of peppering and win eight times.

On the other hand, I sincerely doubt this is a trend the Isles are happy with and they will want to turn around forthwith. Something to keep an eye on in the days ahead.