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Islanders: Three Takeaways from Dominating 5-2 Victory over Sabres

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 22: Brock Nelson #29 of the New York Islanders skates against the Buffalo Sabres at the Nassau Coliseum on February 22, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 22: Brock Nelson #29 of the New York Islanders skates against the Buffalo Sabres at the Nassau Coliseum on February 22, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New York Islanders
Matt Martin #17 and Jordan Eberle #7 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The New York Islanders set the table for their weekend back-to-back with the Buffalo Sabres by grabbing a 5-2 Thursday night win in convincing fashion.

The New York Islanders are now 4-0-0 against the Buffalo Sabres in 2020-21 after Thursday night’s 5-2 win at the Coliseum. Matt Martin scored twice, and Ilya Sorokin made 16 saves as the Islanders encountered little resistance and cruised to a win.

Here are three takeaways from a very strong start to this three-game set vs. Buffalo.

1. Islanders’ Fourth Line were Fantastic Throughout

Yeah, I had no choice but to start this three takeaways piece with last night’s fourth line performance of the season. Also, I say the fourth line were fantastic because this wasn’t just a case of a couple of Matt Martin shots with eyes beating Sabres goalie Jonas Johansson, it was a thoroughly complete 5v5 performance by an Islanders line that has struggled during some stretches of this season.

Barry Trotz chose to play the Cizikas line, or maybe I should say the Martin line, against the Sabres’ top trio of Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Victor Olofsson. That isn’t a matchup I would’ve felt comfortable with entering Thursday, but it obviously worked out really well.

I mean, there’s been a lot of debate about just how good Eichel is lately, and we won’t be getting into that here, but suffice to say he’s good. And the Islanders fourth line had their way with him and his linemates all night long.

Here’s a stat for you: 60% of all shot attempts belonged to the Sabres when Jack Eichel was on the ice but Matt Martin wasn’t. When Martin was on the ice against Eichel? Well, only about 24% of all shot attempts were for the Sabres. That means SOG, missed shots, and blocked shots: 60% for the Sabres with Eichel and without Martin on. A shade under 24% with both Eichel and Martin on.

The Islanders had an 8-1 advantage in scoring chances, and a 3-0 edge in high-danger scoring chances when the Martin line hit the ice at 5v5. Those were minutes mostly spent against the Eichel line, and very clearly mostly spent in the Buffalo zone.

Almost 93% of the xG share favored the Islanders when the fourth line was on at 5v5. Again, against the Eichel line. The actual goal share was 2-0 Islanders in that scenario.

This was a truly vintage fourth-line performance and a welcome one. Matty Marts with two goals, Clutter with five hits, and Zeeker winning six of his eights face-offs in all situations. More of this, please.

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