Having converted on the power play in each of their last four games, the Islanders rank third in the NHL with the extra man at 28.1-percent (9-for-32). While a handful of the unit’s goals have come on picturesque, tic-tac-toe plays, head coach Jack Capuano attributes his club’s power play success to simple zone entries and a willingness to let it rip from anywhere.
“Any time we get a chance to shoot the puck, we do and we converge,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “Our guys use their creativity and skill. We have a method to our madness and how we want to get in the zone, depending on the opposition’s penalty kill forecheck. I like the fact that we’re moving the puck. When we find that 2-on-1, we’re getting pucks to the net.”
Forward Frans Nielsen, who often plays the point on the Islanders first power play unit, knows that special teams go through streaks and slumps throughout an 82-game span. The veteran center says that the power play can stay sharp as long as the Islanders don’t try to get too creative.
“We’re doing a good job of making high-percentage plays right now,” Nielsen said. “We’re not forcing the puck, which you sometimes do when you struggle on the power play. We’ve just got to keep it simple and shoot the puck.”
Despite losing Lubomir Visnovsky, who typically runs the point on the top unit, to injury, the Islanders struck twice on four opportunities against Vancouver’s No. 1 ranked penalty kill Tuesday. And they did it in unique fashion: John Tavares, who usually does his damage from closer to the goal, switched places with Nielsen on the point, and the result was a Matt Moulson tally that put the Islanders up 2-0.
“If we see something on video, we show it to the guys and make an adjustment,” Capuano said. “We change it up a little bit as well for the neutral zone and breakouts as well. That goes the same for 5-on-5 or our penalty kill. If there’s anything we see during the game that needs to be readjusted, we try to make that adjustment in between periods.”
Moulson’s first power play goal Tuesday was off Nielsen’s rebound; the prototypical Capuano power play goal: throw the puck on net and outnumber the opposition down low.
“I think we’ve been getting pucks to the net lately, and getting guys to the net and in the slot and getting some dirty ones,” Moulson said. “That’s what it takes to get power play goals in this league. There’s great penalty killers in this league. The goalies are good. You have to get guys to the net.”
Capuano credits Nielsen for being a catalyst with the extra skater. The coach has frequently complimented Nielsen’s ability to make the correct zone entry, and four of the 29-year-old’s six assists this season have come on the man advantage.
“He’s a guy that obviously can carry the mail,” Capuano said. “He’s a skilled guy, and a lot of our breakouts and entries are surrounded by what he does. He’s been doing it now for two or three years.”
Over the home stand, the Islanders improved their home-ice power play to 36.0-percent, tops in the NHL. But Nielsen wants the Islanders, who went 1-1-2 despite clicking on 6-of-17 man advantages during the recent four-game home stand, to translate special teams success into wins.
“As long as it’s going well, we’ve got to take advantage of it,” Nielsen said. “We have to win more games when the power play is going like it is.”
The Islanders will look to score on the advantage in a fifth straight game Friday, Oct. 25, when they travel to Pittsburgh to face a Penguins team that has gone 13-for-13 on the penalty kill on CONSOL Energy Center ice this season.
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