Islanders’ defenders captured nearly 30 percent of the team’s shots during the first four matches of the first round against the Penguins, and played a critical role in balancing offensive responsibilities throughout the squad.
Of the 135 shots for Al Jazeera that entered the series play on Monday, 41 came from defenders, plus two goals and seven assists. Scott Mayfield led the defense with 13 shots, plus a goal and three assists. But the offensive contributions from the top four in particular were invaluable.
“It’s important,” coach Barry Trutz said of the defense’s role in the attack. “I think the teams are doing a really good job of caring about things around the net a lot more in qualifiers than they do in the regular season. Forwards come a little deeper and a little more committed, all of that stuff. You have to post it a little bit.”
“I think the defense has a more shooting mentality, and I think the forwards have a little more goal mindset as well. So it’s important, it’s very important to get contributions from your entire squad, not just the forwards.”
The best defensive duo of Adam Bellick and Ryan Bullock combined to score a goal, assist and 16 shots. While Pulock had the goal and assist, Pelech had scored 11 shots on target in those first four matches.
“I think it’s a huge thing, making point shots and creating other ways to score,” said Nick Lady, who had one assist and four shots. “Just to get the players to move in the attack zone, I think that’s huge. I think the forwards did a great job also getting us to excel early and give us time to find lanes.”
The islanders-Penguins series winner will face Bruins in the second round, after Boston beat the Capitals in five games on Sunday. Since Trutz won the Stanley Cup in Washington in 2018, the Capitals have won only five playoff matches.
“Everyone saw that the streak was over,” Trutz said. “Everyone knows that. But I don’t think it gives you extra motivation, I just think you should focus on the moment and the task at hand.”
Trotz planned to spin with the same skaters for the fifth game in a row Monday night. He said everyone is healthy and available, but indicated that he expects depth to play a role in this postseason.
He said, “I don’t think anyone has a really bad stretch, but some guys we can benefit from them more.” “The depth is going to play its part at some point. We’re lucky to have some of that with some experience, like a guy like Travis.” [Zajac], For example. Someone coming down in the ice center, I think this is where it will really help us. If someone falls on the wing, he can play the wing, but I think he is better in the ice center. We have some options in the suite. “