The New York Islanders have strung consecutive wins together for the first time this season, defeating the New Jersey Devils 4-1 on Thursday night. Here are three takeaways from the win at the Nassau Coliseum.
1. Barzal Back on Track
You’d have been hard-pressed to find a player who looked more locked-in on Thursday night than Mathew Barzal. Barzy looked like he had been fired out of a cannon, and it showed on the scoresheet, as number 13 registered a goal and two assists. It was a refreshing sight, and one more in-line with what we’ve come to expect from the Islanders number one center.
That’s not to say Barzal had looked exceptionally poor in his last couple outings, but Saturday’s blowout loss at MSG and Monday’s 1-0 win over the Bruins weren’t exactly trademark Barzal performances.
The difference in his play tonight was tangible from Mat’s first few shifts, and it wasn’t just in the offensive zone. While Barzal’s dazzling streak down the right wing wall to score a goal over Devils goalie Scott Wedgewood’s blocker was nice, it wasn’t the totality of what made Barzy’s night so good.
Take the Islanders second goal, for instance. Jordan Eberle races in and makes a nifty backhand move to beat Wedgewood and stake the Islanders to a lead they’d never forfeit. But the puck never even gets moving in that direction if Barzal isn’t back-checking to intercept a lazy Michael McLeod drop pass at the Islanders blue line.
Barzal finished the night with a team-high 1.04 xGF at 5v5, indicative of the threat he consistently posed to the Devils in the offensive zone with the puck, and the engaged effort he put in away from it.
It was the kind of performance we should all hope to see more consistently from him going forward.