After the last two games, the series has taken a much more physical turn. The Islanders could benefit from adding Ross Johnston to the lineup.
Alex Killorn, Barclay Goodrow, and Nikita Kucherov have all made themselves public enemy number one to Islanders fans with their behavior in the last two games. It’s becoming clear that the series is taking a turn.
Last night was the most physical night yet, as the teams combined for over 100 hits in the 5-3 Islanders win.
Many times throughout the game things got chippy. Anders Lee, JG Pageau, and Matt Martin dropped the gloves all at various parts throughout Game 3. With things clearly taking a turn, is it time for the return of Ross Johnston?
Johnston has played four games in the playoffs for the Islanders and the team is 2-2 in those games. He was most effective in Game 5 against the Capitals and then the first game against Philly.
To me, the wise choice is replacing Michael Dal Colle with Ross Johnston. MDC played just 9:54 and his ice time could essentially be an even swap for Johnston’s more physical presence.
There’s no way Dal Colle is dropping the gloves, and while he usually plays a flat-line kind of game for the Islanders, they could probably generate some more pop from adding Johnston into the lineup.
The refs so far in the series haven’t done too much to police the play on the ice. If the players are going to have to do it, you want to bring your most physical weapons to the fight and without a doubt that’s Mr. Johnston.
It all depends if Casey Cizikas is good to go for Game 4, but if he is, assume the lines to look something like:
Lee – Barzal – Eberle
Beauvillier – Nelson – Bailey
Johnston – Pageau – Brassard/Komarov
Martin – Cizikas – Clutterbuck
If Cizikas isn’t good to go, the bottom six could instead look more like:
Martin – Pageau – Clutterbuck
Johnston – Komarov – Brassard
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Cizikas getting back into the mix would be a huge add for the Islanders who usually rely heavily on the veteran fourth-liner. Tampa tends to play a more skilled game, but if they want to play into the Isles’ strength, the Islanders certainly have the depth to pull it off.