Looking at New York Islanders sophomore center Mathew Barzal’s stats this season the reason for his slow-ish first half can be explained by the difficulties his linemates are having?
With 108 points in 111 games since starting his NHL career with the New York Islanders, Mathew Barzal has been free from critique. And rightfully so. Since making his debut the 16th overall pick in 2015 has been a revelation for the Islanders.
But over his last ten games, Barzal has scored five points. That’s not the same Mathew Barzal production we’re used to. With the skill that Barzal possesses he should be a point-per-game player.
So what’s been eating Mathew Barzal? Why isn’t he soaring to the same heights as last season?
We know the simple stats test shows us he isn’t scoring at the same rate as he was last season. With 85 points in 82 games in 2017-18 versus 23 in 29. But looking at a few other areas shows Barzal is still having the same effect.
*All stats from Hockey Reference except for HDCF/60 that was taken from NaturalStatTrick
Even on the power play Barzal is putting up a similar number of points per game with 0.35. With the way the Isles power play has been recently you’d expect that number to be much lower.
Based on an average Barzal is shooting less with 2.05 shots per game. But a 0.02 differential is hardly significant. It’s certainly not enough to suggest Barzal is “struggling” because he’s shooting less.
It’s been suggested that teams have had a full season to read the Mathew Barzal playbook and prevent him from doing what he does best. But that isn’t necessarily true either. Barzal is still generating 12.79 high danger chances per 60 this season compared to the 13.18 from last season.
In terms of the eye test its clear that teams are targetting Barzal. He’s often double teamed and never given the same time and space he received last season but he’s still creating and nearly the same rate he was last season.
So what about his linemates then?
Guilty By Association
Jordan Eberle just hasn’t been the same player this season. Eberle is on pace for 37 points (his current career low), is shooting at 10.5 percent (below is 13.3 percent career average) is a negative possession player for the first time since 2013-14 and is generating 2.79 fewer high danger chanced per 60 this season compared to last.
To be fair, Jordan Eberle hasn’t been on Barzal as long as others. Barry Trotz took him off when things weren’t working.
Anthony Beauvillier has been a staple on Barzal’s wing for most of the season. While Beau has picked it up recently his still performing well below expectation. His pace of 29 points this season is a disappointment after how he ended last season.
Looking at Beauvilier’s shooting heat maps you can see that he’s taking more shots from outside of that “home plate” area in front of the net compared to last season. Beau just isn’t getting himself in those dangerous areas enough this season and that’s been a detriment to his game.
Want your voice heard? Join the Eyes On Isles team!
It’s clear that Barzal’s goal-scoring has diminished this season. He’s on pace for nine goals. He put up 22 last season. So this isn’t all on Barzal’s teammates.
Barzal is certainly getting more attention than he was receiving last season, but his linemates aren’t performing like they were last season either and that’s been a huge factor for Barzal who favors creating time and space for his teammates to finish.