With back-to-back games against two tough Western Conference teams this weekend, Head Coach Jack Capuano stressed that his team needs to continue to play a sound defensive game if they want to prolong their success on the road.
“We are going to have to be on top of our game and hopefully we can play with that attitude that we need,” Capuano said. “(In our last two games), I thought we did a better job of getting pucks to the net and playing sound defensively. To me, it’s the intangibles and the little things that are going to add up to the big things.”
Chicago, leads the Western Conference with 80 goals scored in their first 24 games, averaging 3.33 goals scored per game. Jonathan Toews is tied for fifth in the league with 13 goals, while Patrick Kane is tied for sixth in the league with 17 assists.
“They (the Blackhawks) obviously have a lot of great players and a good team, but I think we have to be doing what we’ve been doing,” Josh Bailey
said before boarding the plane. “The biggest key is to stay disciplined. Chicago has a great power play and some great skill guys. So we must play well 5-on-5 and play strong defensively.”
Breakouts start with control of the puck gained in the defensive zone or a neutral zone trap, so continuing to play well in their own end of the ice will only lead to better transitions up ice, creating more offensive chances.
“The one thing that we have really tried to stress over the last three weeks is our breakouts and our execution and making sure that our D have poise with the puck,” Capuano said. “We don’t just want to go back there and throw it away. We want to make a high percentage play all the time.”
The team’s good defensive play has led to less quality scoring opportunities for the Islanders’ opponents, which is a big reason why they only allowed one goal in Tuesday’s win over the Buffalo Sabres.
“We’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on D-zone play and tried to really play sounder down low especially and keep things to the outside,” Bailey said. “The best defensive teams don’t let teams get to the inside, they force them out and I think we’ve done a good job of that the last little while. We just have to try to keep moving forward.”