Tuesday night saw the New York Islanders bring the most complete effort we’d seen from them in a long time, as they cruised to a 6-1 win over the Rangers.
Unlike other recent performances, Tuesday marked an extremely positive return to form for the New York Islanders, as they beat the Rangers 6-1 and dealt a huge, perhaps lethal blow to their rival’s playoff hopes.
Here are three takeaways as the Islanders beat up on the Rangers and set the table for a crucial three-game set with the Washington Capitals on the horizon.
1. Trotz Finding Success in Shuffling Islanders Forward Group
While Tuesday was one of the most fun games the Islanders have played all season from a fan perspective, it’s not hard to remember the difficult trials this team underwent recently. Things were looking a little bleak for the Islanders coming off of a 2-2-0 week in which they continued to look as though they’d gotten away from their team identity.
In the midst of the tough stretch, and having been given several new players to work into his lineup, Barry Trotz began tinkering with his forward group. It wouldn’t be the first time Trotz has put his lines in a blender and found a hidden gem, but that appears to be what he’s done again coming off of Tuesday’s game.
These strong new lines in question are, of course, the Beauvillier – Pageau – Bailey line, and the Dal Colle – Nelson – Palmieri line. The former was responsible for three 5v5 goals in their 10:04 of action, while the latter created the most high-danger chances for (HDCF) and maintained the best possession metrics of all Islanders even-strength lines.
I think the line which has received the stiffer online opposition from within the fanbase that I’ve seen is the MDC – Brock – KP line. I understand why a lot of fans dislike Michael Dal Colle. He doesn’t produce offensively, he skates like there’s cement in his boots, and he does so while also being a former 5th overall draft pick in 2014, a draft that also saw the Isles select Josh Ho-Sang at 28th overall.
MDC doesn’t do anything that particularly impresses. He’s a good forechecker and puck retriever, but his reading of the game and skillset leaves him pretty much incapable of making plays happen off his retrievals. It’s frustrating watching him play because you can see the value in dressing him alongside more skilled teammates, but it so rarely leads to point production for Dal Colle.
As far as his analytical profile is concerned, Dal Colle is a replacement-level winger, as measured by his WAR. By the numbers, he brings about as much value as any other 13th forward would.
But Dal Colle’s underlying metrics are all pretty good in 2020-21, and he’s shown an ability to build chemistry with different linemates as this season has gone on. I liked MDC next to Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle earlier this season, as that trio put up strong 5v5 numbers in a limited sample size. But, MDC – Brock – Palmieri appears to be a similarly strong unit.
Only growing the sample size will tell us whether these new lines Barry’s cooked up will be long-term solutions to the Islanders forward combinations problem. I don’t think the problem is fully solved by these lines either. There’s still the question of getting the Barzal line back to producing consistently. But, for now, I’d like to see these lines continue to be rolled. Let’s find out if they hold up well against Washington.