With Anders Lee out with a lower-body injury, it was only fitting that the New York Islanders called fellow Edina, Minnesota native Kieffer Bellows to fill the captain’s spot in the lineup (thank you Brendan Burke for that nugget).
After sitting out a few weeks thanks to a poor effort in a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Bellows was going to be given a golden opportunity to prove that he deserves a spot on the roster. And boy did he ever give Barry Trotz some food for thought today.
New York Islanders sleep walkthrough game until Bellows rings the alarm
Just like on Thursday there was a shift that took place in the third period. This time it was in favor of the New York Islanders.
Over the first 40, the Devils owned the scoring chances (58.6%), high-danger chances (72.7%), and expected goals (61.2%). They also had a nice 2-1 lead through Zacha and Kuokkanen. The Isles lone goal was a great snipe from Oliver Wahlstrom.
(Stats from NaturalStatTrick.)
Outside of that goal from the rookie, the Isles looked absolutely out of the game. They constantly lost puck battles, they couldn’t hold the line, and the power play that was lethal just a week ago was absolutely feckless going 0/4 tonight.
Again, through 40, the Isles had no sign of life.
Awaken the Bellows
After being tossed under the bus just under a month ago, Barry Trotz gave Bellows another shot to prove himself. But instead of a defensive role, Barry gave Kieffer a spot on the top line. Basically telling the kid, show me what you got.
It took a while, but Bellows eventually found his chances. Just two minutes into the third period, Mathew Barzal pulls two defenders as he enters the zone only to dump it behind him for the trailing Bellows who was all alone in the slot. A 19th overall pick shouldn’t have an issue burying from that spot.
That goal clearly gave Bellows the shot of confidence he needed and had certainly been looking for this year. I say that because three minutes later Bellows doesn’t rely on his more seasoned linemates to makes this pure power-forward move as he drives to the net for this beauty goal.
The Islanders needed two things entering the year: (1) more offense and (2) to get value from cheap ELC contracts. Both of the Islanders goal scorers are on their ELCs costing less than $900,000 on the cap.
That’s what you call win-win.
With this latest victory, the Isles sit first in the Eastern Division and first in the NHL.
Kieffer Bellows (2G, 3SOG): What a game for the young man. He’s got the coach’s attention, now he’s got to keep it up.
Oliver Wahlstrom (1G, 4SOG): There’s no stopping him. This is Wahlstrom SZN.
Jordan Eberle (2A, 5SOG): Eberle had a quietly effective night for the Isles with two helpers and five shots on goal.
Sami Vatanen (-2, 2GVA): He was anonymous out there for the Devils.
Jack Hughes (1SOG): Yet another anonymous performance this time from what should be the Devil’s most important player.
Devils mentality: No, they don’t have a loser’s mentality. But after being on top of the Isles for two period losing this one is going to hit them hard.