3. Islanders Trying to Re-Find Their First Line
Dealing with the loss of your team captain is never easy. When that captain also happens to be a crucial 5v5 performer and piece of your top line, that’s especially true. As such, the loss of Anders Lee has hurt the Islanders top line’s production as much as everyone believed it would.
Barry Trotz tried out Kieffer Bellows in that first line LW role in the games immediately following Lee’s injury, but the results were apparently not to his liking, so Bellows was scratched on Saturday in favor of Leo Komarov.
Now, the first line did score a goal on Saturday, as Jordan Eberle punched home a loose puck amidst a mad scramble in front of Carter Hart’s crease. But scoring goals, as important as that is to an offense-driven top line, isn’t everything.
The Islanders top forward group did other things well on Saturday too. They spent more time in the offensive zone than the defensive, the quality of their shooting locations were greater than that of their Flyers opposition, they out-chanced their opponents pretty thoroughly.
But I don’t think that can continue with Leo Komarov playing on Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle’s wing. The need for a trade to get some extra top-end firepower onto this Islanders roster has been talked about a lot recently. That will remain one of this team’s top priorities until a deal gets done that brings in some kind of replacement for the void left by Lee.
Clearly, Barry Trotz still doesn’t trust Kieffer Bellows. If he did, then why slot Leo Komarov, who has been the offense equivalent of a black hole wherever he has played, into the top line over Bellows? Why not just reduce Bellows’s role by playing him on a different line, like he did with Anthony Beauvillier?
A trade will need to be made, obviously. But, in the time being, Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle are going to have to step their game up an extra few notches, no matter who’s playing on that line with them.