With Isles Defensive Struggles, Where Will the D Help Come From?

Tonight, the New York Islanders will play the Washington Capitals in the nation’s capital. The Islanders are coming off an impressive 3-1 over the Boston Bruins. In the game, the Isles defense really stepped up, playing in front of young netminder Kevin Poulin, and played an outstanding game against one of the better teams in the National Hockey League.


Despite that great effort, the Islanders are statistically one of the worst defensive team in the league. New York currently is tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for 23rd in the league in goals against per game and no small portion of that lies at the feet of the defense.


With Lubomir Visnovsky and Brian Strait currently sidelined by injuries, the defense is thin.


So, where does the help come from?


The closest and easiest relief can be found in Bridgeport where the Islanders’ AHL affiliate, the Sound Tigers reside. However, the farm team has had a rough start and despite winning their last two games, current sport a record of 3-5-1. Bridgeport has surrendered 34 goals in only nine games.


Yes, a good portion of that lies at the feet of the goaltending, which has not been up to snuff so far this season.


Some of that is on the defense. Does this mean there are no good defensive options for the Islanders in Bridgeport? Not necessarily, as there are a couple of options on the blueline.


First is Calvin de Haan. The gifted defenseman, taken in the first round of the 2009 entry draft, hasn’t set the American League on fire, but he has been more steady than most of his blueline brethren. He is only a -2, which sounds worse than it is since the Sound Tigers are allowing a ton of shorthanded goals. (photo credit: islanders.nhl.com)


The downside is de Haan has a history of injuries and despite power play time and his skill level, has no goals and only one assist through nine games this season. He does, however, have 26 shots on goal, so maybe he will break through soon.


Another defenseman to consider is Andrey Pedan. The big defenseman stands 6’4” and is a physical presence on the ice. He has shown some offensive upside so far this season, scoring a goal and adding three assists for four points in six games. He also is only a -1. (photo credit: islanders.nhl.com)


The problem here is all agree that Pedan still needs seasoning before he’s ready for a role on the Islanders defense.


de Haan is on the last year of his entry deal and that may cause GM Garth Snow to think about giving him some games on the Island. This might give Snow better insight on what to offer de Haan during the offseason.


Pedan is likely going nowhere barring a ravaging of the Isles defense.


Of course, a trade for experienced defense is an option, and it is an option Snow might consider if Visnovsky and Strait’s injuries linger. Most likely, Snow gives the current crop of defense a chance to gel and show some steadiness.


If they can’t, and if Visnovsky and Strait can’t comeback soon, look first for de Haan and second, for a trade. However, leave Pedan to the ‘A.’


-Donovan Brooks


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