2. Coburn Inserted into Lineup, Dobson Scratched, Leo Shines
Barry Trotz’s lineup decisions aren’t always met with resounding positivity from this fanbase. Quite often the Islanders bench boss’s decisions lead to frustration from large swaths of the team’s online following.
On Sunday, it was the healthy scratch of Noah Dobson in favor of Braydon Coburn that had fans unhappy. Dobson, like Sorokin, has found peaks and valleys in his first year as a lineup regular and second-year NHL’er. But, since his return from the NHL’s COVID protocol list, it has been mostly tough sledding for the 21-year-old blueliner.
Enter Coburn, whose difficulties with the Ottawa Senators and advanced age led many, myself included, to question the decision. I mean, the Islanders still have Thomas Hickey available. Regardless, the newest Islander paired with Andy Greene for the night, which only added to the pins and needles I sat on every time that pair hit the ice.
The Coburn-Greene pair were not good. Natural Stat Trick’s numbers show they surrendered the second and fourth-highest Corsi Against numbers of any Islanders skaters while on the ice. Coburn surrendered the highest xGA of any Islander defenseman and was out-chanced 6-3.
Greene, meanwhile, led all Islanders defensemen in the standard deviation of shift length during all situations at 0:24. What does that mean? Well, it means his shifts ranged relatively widely in their lengths. Greene’s average 5v5 shift length of 0:39 was second-lowest among Islanders blue liners. The deviation tells us he was likely caught out for longer shifts than he should’ve been.
The eye test corroborated that for me on Sunday night. Far too often were the Islanders soft on the puck in transition as a team, but with Coburn and Greene on the ice particularly the team often had lots of trouble escaping their own zone with Flyers forecheckers in their faces.
Sloppy passes, easy giveaways, and panicked moments of just throwing the puck into open space away from the nearest forechecker were commonplace sights with Coburn and Greene attempting to exit their zone.
On the other hand, Leo Komarov was a pleasant surprise for the Isles forward group. Leo didn’t exactly have a whale of a game per se, but like we often talk about, he played within himself. He played his game.
Komarov was reliable in breaking up passes and reading his defensive assignments well at 5v5, and he was even better at doing so on the penalty kill. He was still offensively pretty ineffective, but Leo drew a penalty, threw the body frequently, and won three of four faceoffs on the night.
He fulfilled the role of the fourth-line player admirably, and that’s where he belongs. Playing him in the top-six is just an easy recipe for stifling your own offense, but when he’s given a role he can play, Leo is effective. A very solid performance from everyone’s favorite uncle.