Islanders Weekly: Rough End to Penguins Season Series

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.

RelatedLast Week’s Islanders Weekly

New York stayed on the road this week, with a Thursday matchup with the Boston Bruins followed by the final two matchups with the Pittsburgh Penguins on the season. The Isles were outplayed by the Bruins during most of the contest, but managed to come back from an early deficit, blow that lead, and find the overtime winner for a big two points. New York was outshot and out-chanced for much of the game, but Anthony Beauvillier stayed hot with his second straight overtime winner.

Points were harder to come by against the Penguins, especially in Saturday’s blowout loss. The Isles finished the first period down 2-0, and they were already down 5-0 halfway through the second period – a comeback they couldn’t muster. The lone bright spot of Saturday’s performance was that Anthony Beauvillier’s goalscoring streak reached four games, a sign he was finally finding his game after a slow start to the season hampered by injuries along the way.

Monday’s matchup with the Pens was far more competitive, but New York struggled to find offense aside from a rare Matt Martin power-play goal. The Isles finish the season series with Pittsburgh having collected just 6 of a possible 16 points, and prepare for two games this week against the other team they’ve struggled with this year.

First Line Questions

New York has now played nine games without its captain, and the coaching staff has tried a number of different formulas to replace his production. Anders Lee is still tied for the team lead in goals with 12 and leaves a massive hole on the left side of the first line and in front of the net on the power-play. The Isles have tried Kieffer Bellows and Leo Komarov on Mathew Barzal’s left-wing, as well as throwing Matt Martin in Lee’s power-play spot. These moves have had mixed results, but more production is definitely possible with the right moves.

Anders Lee New York Islanders
Anders Lee, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

After placing Lee on long-term injured reserve (LTIR), the team cleared enough room to make a splash ahead of the April 12 trade deadline. There are plenty of strong options available if they can put a trade together in an attempt to make a deep run in this year’s playoffs. Until then, the coaching staff has to try to make the lineup work with one of Komarov and Bellows, or someone else, potentially hampering Barzal and Jordan Eberle’s production.

Dobson on the Mend

Defenseman Noah Dobson has missed the last eight games after being placed on the COVID-19 protocol list. He was removed from the list last week, but the team elected to keep him on Long Island to get up to game speed. With the Isles done with their road trip, Dobson is expected to return to the lineup over the next stretch of home action. His stepping back into the lineup and the power-play could be a big spark to a team looking for goals.

New York’s depth defensemen filled in admirably during Dobson’s absence, but his return will certainly be a welcomed one. Despite missing those eight games, Dobson leads the team’s blueliners in goals with three and has amassed 12 points over his 28 games of action thus far. The strong play of Thomas Hickey over the last few games will make it easier next time an Isles defenseman needs to miss time, or may even persuade coach Trotz to give another defenseman a rest.

Beau Is Back!

Last week’s line swapping seems to have sparked Beauvillier’s game, as the forward continued his scoring streak this week. Prior to going pointless in Monday’s low-scoring affair, he had four goals and an assist over a four-game point streak. The line shuffle came at the right time, as the young winger had gone his previous seven games without a point. He returned to his usual line with Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey on Monday night but could see more time with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom based on the production we saw from that trio over the last handful of games.

Anthony Beauvillier New York Islanders
Anthony Beauvillier, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With Beauvillier’s game seemingly on the rise, the team’s focus can be solidifying the first line. The former first-rounder can certainly be a candidate to fill that void if the team does so internally, but with money to spend it seems likely outside help will be sought. For now, his role will remain solid in the middle-six forward group, and if this trend of production continues, it will only increase.

Top Performers and the Week Ahead

Top Performers

  • Anthony Beauvillier: 2 goals, 1 assist
  • Nick Leddy: 4 assists
  • Mathew Barzal: 1 goal, 2 assists

The Week Ahead

  • 4/1: vs Washington Capitals
  • 4/3: vs Philadelphia Flyers
  • 4/6: vs Washington Capitals