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NY Post
New York Post
29 Apr 2023

NextImg:Islanders finding stroke on power plays came a little too late

It took the Islanders until Game 88 — six games into their opening-round playoff series — to finally make a change to the composition of their top power-play unit, when they swapped Sebastian Aho in for Noah Dobson.

That turned out to be too little, too late and not enough.

And after a season in which the Islanders struggled throughout at five-on-four, finishing the regular season ranked 30th in the league on the power play and continuing on a downward spiral in the playoffs, going 1-for-15 and without a goal from the top unit in their six-game series loss to Carolina, the obvious question is about ramifications.

Coach Lane Lambert’s status is likely to hinge less on the power play and more on whether the Islanders bring back general manager Lou Lamoriello, but the assistant coaching staff could change as a result of the unmitigated disaster at five-on-four.

John MacLean, the assistant coach whose portfolio included the power play, would be the easy scapegoat.

A Lamoriello acolyte with the Devils as a player and coach, MacLean was hired by the Islanders in a surprise move over the summer.

The Islanders first announced Brian Wiseman as an assistant, only for the team and Wiseman to decide to go in different directions just a few weeks later.

Under assistant coach John MacLean’s tutelage, the Islanders’ power play fell from 12th in the league in 2021-22 to a group that, by the end of this past season, seemed to lack confidence as well as the ability to complete basic functions, such as entering the zone and getting set up.

Dobson (right) was swapped in for the Islanders’ power-play unit.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

From Dec. 10 through the end of January, the power play went 3-for-64, only to go 6-for-57 for the final 24 games of the season after Mathew Barzal got hurt, and 1-for-15 in the playoffs once he returned.

The top unit, at the time the Islanders were eliminated with a 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes on Friday, had not scored since March 24 against the Blue Jackets.

To add another layer of misery, John Gruden, who ran the power play from 2018-22 while Barry Trotz was the head coach, was picked up by the Bruins to do the same job on Jim Montgomery’s staff.

Boston ended up having one of the best regular-seasons in league history, while its power play improved from 15th in the league to 12th.

The Islanders had yet to announce any decisions regarding staffing as of Saturday.

By beating the Islanders twice in overtime, Carolina surpassed them as the best overtime franchise in Stanley Cup playoff history, with a 29-17 record (.630) compared to 40-24 for the Islanders (.625).

The loss on April 28 meant this season was the earliest the Islanders have finished since 2018, when they failed to make the playoffs and played Game 82 on April 7.

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