Everyone is familiar with the fabled sophomore slump. Has New York Islanders Mathew Barzal already taken a “step back” from his rookie performance?
Just 12 games into the season, New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal is being carefully inspected for any signs of a sophomore slump.
Following Thursday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Neil Best of Newsday writes about how the newly anointed face of the franchise for the Islanders may be seeing a decline from last year’s explosiveness.
He writes: “Barzal has but one goal (and 11 assists) in 12 games, with a team-worst plus/minus of minus-7”. Let’s break that down into its three parts.
Firstly, it’s clear that having nearly an assist per game is a positive for the New York Islanders and Mat Barzal. What pushed Barzal to be a Calder winner in the first place was his recording-breaking assist tally as a rookie. From the way he’s been playing just a month into the season, it doesn’t look like he’ll be slowing down in this department.
While his tendency to pass instead of shoot can cause aggravation in some impatient fans (“prompting [them] to scream, ‘Shoot the puck!'” as he circled the net this Thursday according to Best), it is really his passing vision that makes his such a force on the ice. Moments after that frustrated fan yelled to shoot, Barzal was able to find Adam Pelech in the slot which would have resulted in the game-tying goal, had Pelech’s shot not rung off the iron.
The point about his one goal falls into the same category of Mat Barzal being Mat Barzal. In his rookie season, his goals only made up about 25% of his total point tally. While it would be an added bonus if number 13 was as prolific of a goal-scoring as he was a skater, his lack of goals in the first month of this season shouldn’t be a concern to anyone, especially because he still stands as a point per game player.
Lastly, Best mentions that Barzal has a team-worst plus/minus rating of minus-7. Mat Barzal’s plus/minus rating should be the last thing on anyone’s mind. While averaging nearly 18 minutes of ice time per game and playing against some of the top lines in hockey, inlcuding Sidney Crosby’s line just this Thursday, he is bound to be on the ice for many goals against that the New York Islanders take. A better indicator of Mat Barzal’s on-ice presence can be found in his possesion statistics. He has a nearly team-best CF% of 48.3.
Best himself says it is “too soon to tell” if Mathew Barzal is falling into a sophomore slump but it doesn’t appear that he has fallen off in any way from his performance last season and there aren’t any solid indicators that he will as the year progresses.