For the longest time, the New York Islanders third line had acted as a revolving door of forwards that never quite stuck. However, since the acquisition of J.G. Pageau at the 2020 Trade deadline, the third line has started to solidify itself. Now with the emergence of Oliver Wahlstrom and the acquisition of Kyle Palmieri, the Isles finally have a consistent third line that head coach, Barry Trotz, can keep together on a nightly basis.
Prior to acquiring Palmieri, Trotz tried a number of players on the left side of Pageau, while Wahlstrom maintained his spot on the right-wing. Players such as Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier, Michael Dal Colle, Leo Komarov, Travis Zajac, Kieffer Bellows, and others had their shot at completing the third line, but no one ever stuck. Bellows was given the majority of the opportunity, as players like Dal Colle were in and out of the lineup with injuries, and Beauvillier and Bailey were needed in top-6 roles, but due to inconsistent play in the defensive end, Bellows found himself watching from the press box more often than not.
The duo of Pageau and Wahlstrom alone prior to the trade deadline was serviceable enough to contribute to the depth of the Islanders. In 41 games played, they were an NHL average in Corsi-for percentage (CF%) at 48.59%. As for expected goals-for percentage (xGF%), they were an above-average 51.42%. The raw statistics weren’t bad either. Together, Pageau and Wahlstrom were on the ice for 11 goals for and seven goals against.
On the power play, the duo was very dangerous this season, with a 91.55 CF% and 96.56 xGF%, they’ve been good for nine goals for and no goals against.
A third line that had been basically two-thirds complete for a majority of the season was a decent driving force for the Islanders, however is looking much better these days post-trade deadline.
The sample size is small, but the third line is far better, with Palmieri rounding out the duo of Pageau and Wahlstrom. And while it’s true most believe the trade deadline acquisitions haven’t worked in the Islanders’ favor, a deeper look at the analytics show the Isles just might be missing a little bit of luck.
In 10 games played, the third line of Palmieri-Pageau-Wahlstrom has accrued an excellent 55.26 CF%, which by definition is considered “elite.” Despite only being on the ice for one goal, one assist, two points together; the trio is producing 85.71% high danger Corsi-for (HDCF%) chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. Their xGF% looks equally as good, at 66.09%, thus proving that the third line is producing positively more often than not on the ice.
When asked about an under-the-radar X-Factor for the Islanders, Arthur Staple in his latest article stated, “Oliver Wahlstrom. The Isles rookie didn’t really start to break out this season until after the Penguins-heavy part of the schedule ended, so his role as a catalyst for their very mediocre power play could help tip the scales against Pittsburgh’s shaky penalty kill.” (from ‘The Penguins-Islanders playoff matchup is set. What comes next?’ – The Athletic – 05/11/2021).
The same can be said about Palmieri. It’s no secret the bounces didn’t go his way in the first 17 games in an Islanders uniform. However, a deeper dive into the numbers prove it’s not as bad as it’s looked. Both he and Wahlstrom, centered by Pageau, will be a different look for the Pittsburgh Penguins going into the first round, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise if things start to click for the Islanders’ third line this playoff run.
In the Isles second to last game of the season, Palmieri finally potted his second as an Islander which could be what he needed to get going headed to the playoffs. “It was big,” linemate Jean-Gabriel Pageau said. “He plays the right way. He plays hard. He plays physical, just the way I like to. We have good chemistry off the ice already. On the ice, we’re still working on it and I feel like things are starting to click.” (from ‘Islanders hope Kyle Palmieri’s goal will get him going’ – Newsday – 05/10/2021)
The Islanders’ second line of Beauvillier-Nelson-Bailey was one of the Islanders’ better lines to finish out the 2020-21 season, a good sign going into the playoffs. The “Killer B’s” made a major impact on the playoff run Trotz and co. went on in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. Despite the injury to the Islanders captain, Anders Lee, a solidified third line of Palmieri-Pageau-Wahlstrom makes this forward group arguably deeper than last season. With a little more puck luck, the third line could be the Isles X-Factor that pushes them a little further this postseason with only one round left to get to – the Stanley Cup Final.
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