The New York Islanders have used multiple forwards in the playoffs to play on the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Derick Brassard. For the most part, they have been using Leo Komarov. Still, after an injury to Cal Clutterbuck in Game 4 of the first round, the Islanders inserted both Ross Johnston and Michael Dal Colle into the lineup for the final game of their series with the Washington Capitals.
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Fortunately, the Islanders are expecting to have Clutterbuck back for Game 1 against the Philadelphia Flyers in Round 2. However, they continue to have options for who to play in the open spot. Let’s take a look at the options and how each player has performed in that spot so far this postseason.
The most logical choice for the third-line left wing is Leo Komarov. Despite wearing a full mask after an injury in practice earlier this summer, Komarov provides the Islanders with an effective penalty killer. He also plays a physical brand of hockey despite his size, but does not bring much offense to the team.
With the success the Islanders have had with secondary scoring from their second and fourth line, the need for offense from Komarov is less. In the past two second-round playoff series, the Islanders have struggled to score. If that problem reoccurs, his spot could become in jeopardy as players like Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey will see more time on the penalty kill.
It’s been tough for Johnston to crack the lineup this season. When he has played, he’s performed but plays a similar type of game to Matt Martin on the fourth line. He was only able to get one game in the Washington series, which seemed to be a matchup better suited for him.
While the Flyers are still physical, they are an extremely fast team. Johnston would also have to play on the third line to not disrupt the chemistry of the the fourth line. If the Islanders were to dress him, it would be a similar scenario to dressing seven defensemen. Even though he has proven he can play in the NHL, Johnston does not see very much time in third periods. Barry Trotz would be forced to double shift his star players and would possibly be better off dressing seven defensemen.
Michael Dal Colle
The hope for Michael Dal Colle in his third professional season would be an impact player in the playoffs for the Islanders. He got a very strong look during the regular season playing in 53 games. However, it was noticeable that despite all the playing time, the former first-round pick was a scratch to start the playoffs.
Dal Colle came up to the NHL as an offensive threat. He only had four goals this season and seven in his career. Dal Colle did impress in his 9:22 of ice-time in Game 5 against the Capitals with three hits, a takeaway, and a blocked shot. Still, at 24 years old, the Islanders are looking for more from the winger, but he could see an opportunity again if there are anymore injuries.
The lone players on this list to not make an appearance in the playoffs has been Andrew Ladd and Otto Koivuka. Ladd suffered a torn ACL last season and only played in four games during the regular season this year. He did impress with his physical play, but has ultimately not played much hockey in the last few seasons.
Koivula made the postseason roster, but is likely only to play if there’s an injury to a center. For the first time, the Islanders have Barzal, Brock Nelson, Pageau, and Casey Cizikas as their four centers, leaving Koivula as a healthy scratch for the playoffs.
Trotz has been a coach that likes to stick with what is working. Had Clutterbuck not gotten hurt, Komarov would most likely have continued to play on the third line. However, he was able to get a couple of different players into Game 5 with Brassard sitting a game. The likely bet would be to see a lot of Komarov and possibly Johnston if the series gets extremely physical.
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.