Throughout the course of a series, superstars are generally going to get recognized. For the New York Islanders, Kyle Palmieri and Josh Bailey scored overtime goals. Mat Barzal made plays happen with the puck on every shift, and players like Anthony Beavuiller and Brock Nelson scored goals. For the Islanders, they have also been getting it from some players that fans least expected. Let’s take a look at a pair of defensemen that quietly stepped up in the first round of the 2021 playoffs as they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
It was not the best regular season for Scott Mayfield, but he has certainly played well in the playoffs. Through six games, he is a plus-6 with a goal and four points. Mayfield was not a minus in any of the games in Round 1 and was a plus-3 in Game 3 with a goal as well as a pair of assists in the loss.
“I think the thing that Scott is doing is, in the offensive zone, we haven’t got a whole lot off the rush, but what he’s doing is he’s getting a shot through or getting some traffic. That’s what you need. You look at the goals tonight, those were playoff-type goals. Those are what you see night in and night out when you turn on the TV and watch … the highlights. Those are the goals that you see for the most part, so we’ve got to continue that”https://reporterdoor.com/2021/05/21/scott-mayfields-renewed-aggressiveness-boosting-islanders/
Mayfield has been playing on the second pairing with Nick Leddy. Although head coach Barry Trotz tries as much as he can to get the duo of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock on the ice against the Sidney Crosby line, the Penguins had last change in three of the six games. If they are not facing the Penguins’ first line, that pairing generally was going up against Evgeni Malkin. Despite the veteran forward missing the first two games of the opening series before getting on the scoresheet in Game 4, Mayfield and Leddy did a great job of keeping that line quiet. Even more so, players like Jason Zucker, Kasperi Kapanen, and Jared McCann did not provide much secondary scoring in the series.
Trotz has also shown tremendous trust in his second pairing as Mayfield, for only the second time in his NHL career, played over 30 minutes in Game 5. He recorded 30:09 of ice time, five more seconds than he did in the bubble last year against the Philadelphia Flyers. Mayfield will now have to do the same for the Boston Bruins’ second line of Taylor Hall, David Krejci, and Craig Smith.
For Leddy, he is a player that has plenty of experience in the postseason. It comes as no surprise to see him get plenty of ice-time as he played over 32 minutes in the Islanders double-overtime game on Monday. Perhaps is the biggest play of the series came when he was stuck on the ice for an extended shift that lasted over two minutes in Game 5. The Islanders managed to not allow a goal and went on to win later on a goal by Bailey.
While he and Mayfield are players who like to join the rush, Leddy has done that his entire career with his speed. He has contributed offensively with a pair of assists in the first round and has now been pressed into service on the power play with Oliver Wahlstrom going down with an injury. The Islanders had a four-minute power play late in Game 6 but played it extremely preservative as they maintained their two-goal lead with Leddy on the point with Pulock.
The Islanders will once again need both Leddy and Mayfield to step up in the second round. The Islanders played well against Boston in the regular season, but Hall has given New York problems since he was acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Sabres. It will also be interesting to see if Trotz continues to push Leddy and Mayfield or let rookie Noah Dobson get a bit more ice time against Boston.
Matt Rothman is a 2018 graduate from Florida Gulf Coast University receiving his bachelor degree in journalism. Originally from Long Island, he moved to Parkland shortly after high school. Matt worked as the assistant sports editor for his school paper, eaglenews.com in college becoming just one of nine students in his graduation class to serve over 1,000 community service hours. His goal is to travel to every Major League Baseball stadium, and has been to multiple US Open finals.