The New York Islanders played a strong game on Saturday night, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Penguins in Pittsburgh, as they fell 3-2 to Crosby and Co.
The New York Islanders turned in a good effort on Saturday, playing a strong first 40 minutes and a decent final 20, but that ultimately wasn’t enough to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins on the night of Sidney Crosby’s 1,000th game.
Here are three takeaways from the disappointing Saturday night result.
1. New York Islanders’ Mathew Barzal Going Cold?
With Michael Dal Colle unavailable, Barry Trotz reunited his old top-two forward lines on Saturday, swapping Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey in order to re-create the lines from the Islanders’ summer playoff run. The move got pretty good results too, as both lines were major play-drivers for the Islanders.
Thanks to some suspect defense by P.O. Joseph and Mike Matheson, Jordan Eberle pretty much got a wide-open lane to the Penguins net. He buried a backhander behind Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry, and tied the game for the Islanders.
Brock Nelson, the Isles’ snake-bitten 2C who had yet to find a 5v5 goal before Saturday night, scored the one that put the Islanders ahead 2-1 in the third period. But, while the Nelson line was good, the Barzal line was pretty much indisputably better.
Barzal himself came out on absolute fire with a great first shift which almost saw the Islanders open the scoring. The only downside? The Islanders didn’t score on that very strong shift, which was pretty much the theme for the night.
In fact, that theme has seemed to follow Mat Barzal over the last few Islanders games. Barzal, who only Monday was in the midst of a nine-game point streak, has now failed to record a point in three games since. That isn’t necessarily an indictment on Barzal’s level of play either. He’s been good, he just hasn’t found the net or helped a teammate find it in 180+ minutes now.
On a team with some more reliable depth scoring, this could be filed away as a non-issue. But, the Islanders don’t have enough depth scoring on most nights to overcome their 1C not producing. Barzal has only failed to record a point in six games this season, the Islanders record in those games is 2-4, and one of those wins was the 1-0 victory over Boston back in mid-January.
With that said, Barzal’s level of play has hardly fallen into a valley. He’s still the best offensive play-driver the team has, and Saturday was just another strong example of that.
He was all over the Penguins. Flying all over the Pittsburgh zone, being as tough as anyone to take the puck off of, and opening up opportunities to score. Barzal led the Islanders in ixG (individual expected goals) in both Natural Stat Trick and Moneypuck’s xG models.
Unfortunately, those expected goals didn’t translate to actual goals. Barzal created plenty of chances, as usual. But, he and his linemates couldn’t bury those looks, which has been a recurring issue for multiple seasons now.
Hopefully, Barzal gets back to putting up points soon, as the Islanders could definitely use it.