The Islanders forward lines carousel that has been ongoing for that last two seasons has not affected one line in particular, the fourth line. The line of Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin has been a weapon ever since head coach Jack Capuano paired them together last season. Capuano has never been afraid to use that line in any situation. His decision paid off big time Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
The Isles squandered leads of three goals and one goal against the Rangers. The score tied at four with 90 seconds left in regulation, Capuano sends out the fourth line. The Islanders were dominated by the Rangers in the faceoff circle, 41-20. Cikizas won this faceoff, after losing 12 prior to that, got it back to Clutterbuck who put it top shelf to give the Isles the lead for good. It was Clutterbuck’s 12th of the season. The “best fourth line in hockey” that goes 150% every shift now has added offense to their bag of tricks this season.
The Islanders acquired Clutterbuck from the Minnesota Wild at the 2013 NHL Draft. The cost was Nino Niederreiter, the team’s 2010 first-round pick. Niederreiter requested a trade off of Long Island. General manager Garth Snow granted the request. It was quickly determined that the Isles lost the trade. A potential 30-goal scorer for a checking forward. Clutterbuck showed in Minnesota that he could score when need be, he put up a career-high 19 goals in 2010-11. Snow quickly signed the restricted free agent to a three-year deal worth $2.75 million annually. The Isles have gotten their money’s worth in him. He consistently gets underneath his opponent’s skin without taking silly penalties. He kills penalties and is a perennial league leader in shorthanded goals. He racks up the hits, a category that he and his linemate Martin lead the league in. Clutterbuck has a sneaky wrist shot, a shot he displayed at the Garden Sunday night. Almost three years after the trade it’s fair to say the Islanders would make this trade again and again.
— NHLPA (@NHLPA) March 7, 2016
Not known for his offense, Martin has already set a career high with 16 points. He is also one goal short of his career high of eight, set the last two seasons. Any offense the team gets from Martin is a bonus. Martin, like Clutterbuck, is known for disrupting his opponent’s flow and wearing them down. This has complemented Cizikas’ speed and Clutterbuck’s two-way ability to overwhelm opposing teams. He set the NHL record with 382 hits last season is already is over 300 for this season. Unlike his linemates, Martin does not play on the penalty kill. But his possession metrics are very favorable.
Season Age Team Lg GP TOI CF CA CF% CF% rel FF FA FF% FF% rel oiSH% oiSV% PDO oZS% dZS% 2009-10 20 NYI NHL 5 45.2 48 40 54.5 7.7 38 30 55.9 5.9 3.7 91.3 95.0 43.2 56.8 2010-11 21 NYI NHL 68 660.2 506 746 40.4 -10.3 353 550 39.1 -11.7 7.6 91.6 99.2 45.4 54.6 2011-12 22 NYI NHL 80 829.7 675 794 45.9 -3.5 517 551 48.4 -1.8 3.5 92.3 95.8 43.6 56.4 2012-13 23 NYI NHL 48 474.3 388 431 47.4 -4.7 289 303 48.8 -3.9 8.5 90.7 99.2 44.0 56.0 2013-14 24 NYI NHL 79 852.1 693 857 44.7 -7.3 517 609 45.9 -5.4 6.2 91.4 97.6 45.2 54.8 2014-15 25 NYI NHL 78 855.4 743 712 51.1 -2.6 560 498 52.9 -1.9 6.4 91.4 97.8 45.1 54.9 2015-16 26 NYI NHL 63 641.5 559 552 50.3 -1.0 409 404 50.3 -1.2 10.2 91.1 101.4 42.3 57.7 Career NHL 421 4358.4 3612 4132 46.6 -5.2 2683 2945 47.7 -4.6 6.7 91.5 98.2 44.4 55.6
While the focus has been on impending unrestricted free agents Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen, Martin will also be a free agent on July 1st. While his negotiations look to be the easiest of the three, there is little doubt that the long-time Islanders will get a sizable raise from his $1 million dollar salary.
The 25-year-old has flown under the radar on this line. While Clutterbuck and Martin dish the hits, Cizikas has quietly had a career year. His 25 points have easily topped his previous high of 18, set last season. In his last 13 games, Cizikas has three goals and eleven assists. He has the same amount of points as Mikhail Grabovski, who is making $5 million a season and Ryan Strome, who had 50 points last season. He is one of the anchors of the league’s top penalty kill unit. He can be just as much an agitator as Martin and Clutterbuck. Cizikas is a restricted free agent and should get a nice multi-year deal from the Islanders in the offseason.
Capuano on Cizikas -Probably should be on another line but I just can't move him. #Isles
— Shannon Hogan (@Shannon_Hogan) March 1, 2016
Noel Fogelman is a 5-time Emmy Winner and started his career working on the Buffalo Sabres Pre and postgame shows for the Empire Sports Network. He then went to Bristol, CT to work at ESPN on NHL2Night and its coverage of the Stanley Cup. Follow me on Twiter @thefirstnoel19