3. Islanders Forwards Continuing to Struggle
I take no pleasure in saying that several Islanders forwards continued to look lost Thursday night. It’s a worrying trend that has continued from opening night at Madison Square Garden straight up to last night’s 4-1 loss.
I mean, is Brock Nelson ever going to score a 5v5 goal again? Sure, he buried the Islanders’ only goal of the game, but it was a late power-play goal in garbage time. The Islanders as a team had long since looked resigned to losing by the time Nelson scored his fourth goal of 2020-21. Plus, Tristan Jarry’s penalty kill SV% is an absolutely horrendous .795.
But, Nelson isn’t the only veteran forward struggling. Josh Bailey too has yet to find his game, and because I know there will be several of you who try to be witty and make some remark about Bailey never having a game, to begin with, he had 20 points during the Islanders’ 22-game playoff run in the bubble. Whether you like him or not, that production is difficult to replace.
Anthony Beauvillier needs some slack because he’s only just returning from injured reserve, but he too has been cold since 2020-21 began. A season ago it seemed as if Beauvillier was primed to have a breakout year in which he’d finally take that next step and solidify himself as a top-six NHL forward.
Beau finished with a career-high 39 points in his age 22 season and added another 14 in his red-hot bubble performance alongside Nelson and Bailey. But, in my mind at least, he hasn’t taken that next step yet that tells me he can be a legitimate presence in the Islanders top-six consistently.
The fourth line, after a couple good performances that showed us flashes of the best fourth line in hockey, reverted to a subpar trio of aging bottom-sixers on Thursday.
Look, I’m not saying the sky is falling because the Islanders lost a game in regulation. They’re still in a good position in the standings, and if they win their next game then they’re in an even better one. I still think all of the players mentioned above are too talented to stay this cold for much longer.
But, we need to see them start showing their talent. Barry Trotz tried putting the Beau-Nelson-Bailey trio together again in Thursday’s game, perhaps to see if they could revive some of that playoff bubble magic. It didn’t happen. The fourth line got worked over for most of Thursday night.
Whatever needs to be done to get these guys more engaged and productive, it better happen soon.