Islanders: Barry Trotz accidentally finds lines that work
After going down 2-0 in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz had seen enough. His club was in the midst of a three-game losing skid and had given up eight unanswered goals over the last three periods.
So as the teams hit the ice for the second period, Trotz had shifted his top six around. He moved Jordan Eberle down next to Brock Nelson and Leo Komarov and then moved Josh Bailey up next to Barzal and Lee.
The decision may have been rooted in giving his team a shake and maybe Trotz was hoping to go back to his usual set up later, but with the way they played yesterday, there’s no way Trotz should return his lines to the status quo.
New York Islanders makeshift lines need to stay
In the two periods that followed the change, the Islanders were absolutely dominant over the Flyers. They outscored them 2-0 (in regulation), they owned 75% of the scoring chances, 74% of the shots, and had a 72.7 xGF%. Again, dominant.
Leading the way were the Islanders reshaped lines (and the kid line).
I’ve long maintained that Josh Bailey and Anders Lee need to play together. The two have on-ice chemistry that is hard to replicate. With Lee at the top of his game, and Bailey needing a spark, putting the two together was an inspired move even if that wasn’t the exact goal of the decision.
The three were at the heart of the Islanders second goal (Scott Mayfield;s) with a good cycle in the offensive zone. With 7:42 of ice time at 5on5, the trio held a wild 97.02% xGF. That stat alone tells you everything you need to know about how that line played.
As the Islanders try to build off two dominant periods yesterday, Trotz needs to keep that top line together.
They weren’t as dominant as the Islanders top line, but with an 86.22 xGF% in 5:13 of 5on5 ice time, the isles second line certainly helped tilt the ice in their team’s favor. The reshaped second line held a fantastic 77.78% CF with seven shot attempts-for to the two they gave up.
Leo Komarov is clearly the weakest link in the group. He was responsible for 14% of the line’s good showing in terms of puck possession. He can easily be replaced on this line by Michael Dal Colle . This means Leo could likely find himself out of the lineup and on the taxi squad by puck drop.
The Kid Line
Kieffer Bellows, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Oliver Wahlstrom were fantastic in only their second game together.
With seven shot attempts for and one against, they held an 87.5% CF, 100% of shots on net (three for, zero against), and a 90.55 xGF%.
The duo of Bellows and Wahlstrom looked effective in the defensive zone but it’s their offensive game that the Islanders need. And Barry Trotz, to his credit, allowed the kids to do so with 100% of their zone starts coming in the O-zone.
This line is building towards something great. They need to be given the time to do so.
(All data from NaturalStatTrick.)
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The Islanders may have lost (in overtime) but for a long portion of that game, they were the team we saw in the bubble during the playoffs, thanks in large part to these new lines. I’d be surprised if Trotz changes this setup for today’s game he’s finally got something that works. He needs to roll with it.