Offense was not a problem for the New York Islanders in the first two rounds of the postseason, but they need a spark heading into Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. One player that can give them that is Oliver Wahlstrom. The rookie started out the postseason in the lineup. However, he was injured in Game 5 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Wahlstrom has yet to return, but head coach Barry Trotz has mentioned that he is available to play. As the Islanders trail 2-1 in their series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York needs to find a way to get their young goal scorer into the lineup as they have only five goals in three games.
Who Comes Out?
The only two logical choices of players that would come out of the lineup are Travis Zajac and Leo Komarov. Zajac was acquired at the trade deadline along with Kyle Palmieri. He was a healthy scratch for the first five playoff games but has not come out of the lineup since Wahlstrom’s injury. At 36-years old, Zajac does not provide the scoring that he did when he was with the New Jersey Devils.
Wahlstrom could definitely come in and replace him on the third line and play with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Kyle Palmieri. With the way Pageau has played in the postseason with his ten assists, Wahlstrom could find himself in great spots to score.
If the Islanders were to play Komarov, it would definitely shake up the lines. New York already has one of the best fourth lines in the league in Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas, and Cal Clutterbuck. Trotz has also not wanted to break up the second line of Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson, and Josh Bailey. However, the Islanders would have an opening on the left-wing on the first line.
Potentially, Wahlstrom could be a player that plays on the first line in the future, though he has not played much left-wing as a professional. Palmieri has shown chemistry with Barzal and could definitely fill in. He was brought in to replace Anders Lee, and while Komarov has played well, he does not provide New York with much offense. Of course, they would lose a penalty killer, so they would need someone else to step up. That would still leave Wahlstrom playing with Pageau and then also Zajac on the third line.
At 21-years-old, Oliver Wahlstrom has one of the best shots in the entire NHL. He could also help the team on the power play. He has also shown tag he can play physically and will not back down against anyone. Overall, the Islanders are 25 percent on the man-advantage but are just 1-for-8 against the Lightning. If New York can get traffic in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy and get either Wahlstrom or Ryan Pulock set up, they have a chance to be lethal.
The likelihood of Trotz making this move is very slim, but it certainly can help the Islanders. He has shown throughout his time with New York that he is much more comfortable with the veterans. He also has not made any changes in the lineup since Wahsltrom’s injury.
Even though the Islanders trail 2-1 in their series, it is a familiar situation as it is the third time this postseason they have been in this spot. The only difference is New York is arguably facing one of the hottest goaltenders in the league in Andrei Vasilevskiy and an experienced team that is just coming off a Stanley Cup. The Islanders can always go back to what they did before, but at least this gives them a bit more offense.
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.