2. Scott Mayfield Returned to Form
Scott Mayfield’s 2020-21 season has drawn ire from throughout the Islanders fanbase. The defenseman’s positional play has cost him and his team on several notable occasions, and those glaring mistakes have opened him up to a lot of criticism recently.
I’ve made the argument that Mayfield’s 2020-21 hasn’t been much different from Mayfield in previous seasons. He’s always been a a big defenseman with a lot of strength who can muscle opposition forwards around, but he is prone to positional trouble, taking dumb penalties, and icing the puck on attempted breakout passes. Those have always been the trade-offs with Mayfield.
But last night we saw the reason why Mayfield’s $1.450 million contract can be such great value. Mayfield was one of the Islanders three best defensemen on the night, and he performed well playing on a night when the Islanders were shuffling up their defense pairings quite a bit.
Mayfield saw over nine minutes of ice time with his usual partner, Nick Leddy, at 5v5, but also played minutes with Andy Greene, Ryan Pulock, and Adam Pelech. He was most often matched against the Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad line at 5v5 according to Micah Blake McCurdy’s HockeyViz and shared the ice with Adam Fox more than any other Rangers defenseman.
Considering the tough competition Mayfield faced on Sunday, and the ravenous criticisms he’s received this season, we didn’t see much of Mayfield’s often very visible flaws. He was positionally sound, he blocked shots, when he needed to he was pushing Rangers forwards around, looking to clear space in front of Ilya Sorokin’s crease.
Mayfield finished the night with 80.39% of the Expected Goal (xG) Share when he was on the ice, those numbers have been adjusted for score and flurry thanks to Moneypuck. That 80.39% is second-highest on the Islanders entire team, and third-highest for all skaters, behind Pavel Buchnevich (84.53%) and Kyle Palmieri, who finished with 85.96% of the xG share.
Now, Mayfield has to show us consistency. The Islanders could really use another defenseman to step up their game in the way Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock have this season. I’m not saying he needs to suddenly become a puck-moving genius à la Cale Makar, but he needs to play the best he can, while not getting outside his game. He did so last night, and it proved to be a big boost for the team.