I don’t think anyone would question Mathew Barzal being the best player on the Islanders. With that being said, that doesn’t exempt him from any criticism. After scoring nine goals and having 22 points through the team’s first 24 games, he went ice cold.
It’s uncharacteristic for Mathew Barzal to struggle the way that he has over this last stretch of games. Before last night, he had no goals and three assists in his previous 10 games. Frankly, that’s just not going to cut it and he knows that.
When looking at those stretch of games, it’s kind of obvious why he struggled. This stretch coincides with Anders Lee’s injury. Lee suffered his season-ending injury back on March 11 and since it’s been a revolving door of left wings for Mathew Barzal.
While many point to Lee playing with Barzal for Anders Lee’s resurgence can’t it go the other way too? Like is it fair to only credit Barzal for the functionality of that line?
When Mat Barzal and Anders Lee were on the ice together they had a 56.13 CF%, a 58.86 SF%, 64.39 HDCF%, and a 71.43 HDGF% according to Natural Stat Trick. Barzal had better numbers with Lee than he did without Lee on his wing as well as he held a 50.79 CF%, a 52.75 SF%, 61.29 HDCF%, and a 64.29 HDGF%.
Sure, I’m not here to argue that Anders Lee doesn’t benefit from playing with Mathew Barzal, I’m here to tell you it’s more of a two-way street than you probably realize. Is it fair to expect Barzal to produce the same with Leo Komarov on his line, who has just one goal in his last 43 games dating back to last season (including the playoffs)?
It’s been a challenge, but finally, Barzal broke out of his slump with a two-point performance including this goal in the second period:
For the Isles, already down 5-0 it was too little too late. But if you’re looking for a silver lining from last night, Barzal potentially snapping the funk he’s been in would be a welcomed addition. I don’t know how much longer we can be subjected to Leo Komarov on the top line.
I’d have to imagine a trade is coming before the deadline next month. I just don’t see Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz seeing Leo Komarov as a permanent solution in place of Anders Lee.