In the absence of Andrew Ladd and Josh Bailey, the New York Islanders have done their best to supplement that huge loss of production. In the process of simply trying to get by, the Isles may have stumbled upon an upgrade to an already very productive second line.
The New York Islanders may have discovered platinum in a gold mine. The quality of the players in the Isles minors system is well known throughout the league. The jaw-droppingly awesome play that’s been exhibited by the Islanders patchwork second line since Andrew Ladd has been out injured is what’s been the surprise.
Mathew Barzal, with his head-turning skating and puckhandling skills, has thrived playing alongside Andrew Ladd and Jordan Eberle on the Islanders second line this season. Ladd’s leadership and Eberle’s ability to put himself in the middle of anything good that happens while he’s on the ice make the Isles second line arguably the most important piece of this team.
One must ask the question; if Nikolai Kulemin hadn’t suffered a season-ending injury and Mat Barzal was stuck in the Isles bottom six, would the Islanders be in the position they are now? Probably not. It’s certainly possible Barzal would be having the same type of season if he was playing with Brock Nelson and Alan Quine, but it’s not likely.
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Playing alongside Ladder and Eberle has given Mat Barzal the best learning experience he could ever imagine. Jordan Eberle’s playmaking ability and Andrew Ladd’s leadership-by-example has provided Barzal with two very important mantras to live by in the NHL; play hard and play tough.
Enter, Anthony Beauvillier
When Andrew Ladd went down with an injury last week in Philadelphia, we immediately knew there would be a shake-up of the lines. I called for Barzal to move to the wing on the first line in Josh Bailey‘s absence and play Brock Nelson in the middle of the second line if only to attempt to wake Nelson up a bit (he’s still hibernating, but slowly coming out of his slumber).
Thankfully, I’m not the head coach of the New York Islanders. Doug Weight is, and he made the decision to put childhood friends Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier together and what we’ve seen since has been amazing. In the two games since coming back from the “bye week” Barzal has 8 points and a +6 rating and Beauvillier has 4 points and a +8 rating.
There is no question that these two have amazing chemistry playing alongside each other. The only question is, what is to be done when Ladd returns from injury? If it were up to me, I’d like to see this line remain together for the foreseeable future and move Andrew Ladd to the third line.
Giving the line of Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, and Anthony Beauvillier the opportunity to stay together would give the New York Islanders the flexibility to move Ladd to the third line to spark something there. If they can get Brock Nelson playing well again, just in time for the push for the postseason, it would give the Islanders an entirely new dynamic moving forward.