Islanders Weekly is my series that looks at the performance and outlook of the New York Islanders. Every Thursday, we will take a look at the week that was for the Islanders, highlighting key players and trends while looking at the road ahead.
Related: Last Week’s Islanders Weekly
The Islanders were tasked with two matchups against the Washington Capitals this week, the team they’ve been battling for the top spot in the MassMutual East Division. Now that the Isles have completed their season series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps represent the biggest obstacle for New York over the rest of the regular season. Thursday’s matchup saw a rare offensive explosion for the Isles to the tune of eight goals and ten different players finding the scoresheet, including five multi-point efforts. Following that 8-4 victory, the rest of this week’s games were fairly low event by comparison.
The Islanders played host to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday and jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to Anthony Beauvillier finding twine in each of the first two periods. Ilya Sorokin and the Isles were unable to keep the Flyers quiet in the third period, as Claude Giroux found the back of the net twice, combining with Beauvillier to provide all the goal-scoring in regulation. After a scoreless overtime, the shootout winner came from Mathew Barzal in the fourth round.
New York played a much different game against the Caps on Tuesday, handing their division rival its first shutout loss of the season. After two shutout periods that saw New York hit the post twice and the crossbar once, Brock Nelson found the game-winner with just under seven minutes remaining in regulation. Semyon Varlamov recorded his fourth shutout of the season, moving him up to a tie for second in the NHL in that category. The win allowed the Isles to move up to a tie with Washington atop the division.
Barzal’s Big Week
The Isles’ leading scorer had his four-game point streak broken in the low-scoring affair Tuesday, but his week was still one to remember. Barzal was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week on Monday for the week ending April 4. This is his first time being named the league’s first star, and it caps off a memorable week for the franchise center. This was Barzal’s fourth game with at least five points, joining an elite group of four other Isles to accomplish the feat.
Barzal’s five-point hat-trick performance against the Capitals on Thursday looked to have sparked his line, but there may be changes coming to the lineup. His individual efforts were undoubtedly the reason for most of the goals, especially his three. Lou Lamoriello and Co. successfully acquired scoring help, most likely to add to Barzal’s left-wing alongside Jordan Eberle, who has been inconsistent on the first line since captain Anders Lee’s season-ending injury.
New York made the first big trade in advance of Monday’s NHL trade deadline with a Wednesday night deal with the New Jersey Devils. The Isles added forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac for the remainder of the season, without giving up a current roster player. The team did give up a first-round and conditional fourth-round pick, in addition to two prospects. The Devils retained half of each player’s remaining salary, giving the Islanders some remaining cap flexibility.
The addition of Palmieri gives New York the scoring punch they were looking for on their first line, and can further bolster their power-play. After plugging Leo Komarov into Lee’s vacant left-wing spot on the first line, the top unit lacked the same effectiveness. The hope is that Palmieri can complement Barzal’s game by providing another high-danger shot alongside Eberle if he ends up playing on that line. Zajac gives the Isles another high-percentage center that can either play on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s wing or center his line. Coach Barry Trotz could very well take a different approach, but it’s anyone’s guess until the pair is ready to join New York’s lineup.
Second Line Resurgence
New York’s second forward line has come back to life over the last two weeks, due in large part to the goal-scoring of Beauvillier and Brock Nelson. The trio, completed by Josh Bailey, accounted for five of the 12 Isles goals over the last three games, including the sole offensive production in the past two. After being split up briefly in March, Trotz returned Beauvillier to his normal spot on Nelson’s wing after the young forward was sparked by being moved to the third line.
Despite New York’s deadline acquisitions, the second line should remain intact. The three have played very well of late, and the pressing needs offensively were present on the first and third lines. The Isles coaching staff could still have some surprises up their sleeves, but it wouldn’t be unrealistic to expect the team’s hottest line to stay together for the next while.
Top Performers and the Week Ahead
- Mathew Barzal: 3 goals, 3 assists
- Anthony Beauvillier: 2 goals, 1 assist
- Jordan Eberle: 2 goals, 2 assists
The Week Ahead
- 4/8: vs Philadelphia Flyers
- 4/9: vs New York Rangers
- 4/11: vs New York Rangers