3. The Islanders won in spite of a sub-par Barzal line performance
Mathew Barzal’s game-winning goal came on the power-play, and it was obviously crucial for the Islanders win on Saturday. But his 5v5 line didn’t carry the Islanders offensive production tonight, and that’s not a bad thing.
Barzal still potted a goal on Saturday, extending his point streak to a career-high eight games. But the Barzal, Lee, Bailey first line did not have the same sort of impact for the majority of the night.
The Islanders top line posted the third-worst xGF of the night at .23, and the fourth-worst FF% at 26.67% according to Natural Stat Trick. They didn’t get many unblocked shots off, and when they did they weren’t from very dangerous areas in the Bruins zone.
Again though, that is okay. The Islanders top line has carried the 5v5 workload for the majority of games this season, and an off-night, especially against an elite Bruins team is not the worst thing in the world. In fact, it could be flipped to a positive so long as it stays an anomaly because it means the Islanders don’t need them to be at peak form every night to win hockey games, even against good teams like Boston.
How replicable is that? Probably not very on a consistent basis. Most NHL teams are not going to win if their top line is posting numbers like that regularly. But this performance was the exception, not the norm for the first line’s 5v5 performances this season.
Barzal is at a point-per-game pace and leads the Islanders in goals, assists, and points through 13 games in 2020-21.
Anders Lee has already posted more power-play goals this season than he did all of last.
The first line, generally speaking, is going well on most nights. That’s with either Josh Bailey or Jordan Eberle on the right-wing.
Bailey’s performances still need to reach the next level that we know they can, but on most nights that hasn’t handicapped the Barzal line. Bailey is a streaky player, and it’s likely that he’ll eventually pop off for a bunch of assists in a short span at some point.
The only glaring negative I see here is that the Islanders top line didn’t face the best competition Boston had to offer on Saturday. Barry Trotz started them off against the Bergeron line, but pretty quickly switched matchups, favoring to ice the Nelson line against the Bruins top unit, rather than his own first line.
That’s a problem because you would hope Barzal’s group could do more against not the best the Bruins had to offer.