2. Bailey and Dobson’s Return, Fourth Line Leo, Varlamov’s Start
Despite a 1-0 victory to close out last week in Philadelphia, I think Islanders fans could see that the lines rolled in that game were not going to stick. Braydon Coburn and Andy Greene made for a really, really bad defense pairing, Oliver Wahlstrom continued to struggle, and Barry even went back to Leo Komarov on the first line again for about five minutes of 5v5 time.
That the Isles would need to continue shuffling things and finding what works was still evident, and so they kept making changes. Josh Bailey entered the lineup, having returned from a brief hiatus caused by what appears to be a minor injury. Noah Dobson also got back into the Islanders lineup after having been healthy scratched on Sunday.
Bailey and Dobson are two players who have had trouble finding their games this season. Bailey’s form has been frustrating fans all season, while the younger, more fresh-faced Dobson has been allowed to mostly slide for what have been some sub-par performances on the Islanders backline.
Maybe it’s fans recognizing Dobson plays with Andy Greene, who appears more cooked with each passing game, or maybe they’re just being nice because Noah has the attributes and skillset of a future top-pair NHL blueliner. But they needn’t feel frustration with the youngster on Sunday, as he and Greene played a fairly reliable brand of defense that saw their pair limit xGA despite ceding possession more often than not.
Bailey was not afforded any such mercy by fans, which makes it all the sweeter that he came back to score twice and add an assist in a big night for the Islanders veteran.
Exiting the lineup on Tuesday were Braydon Coburn and Oliver Wahlstrom. Coburn, as we’ve discussed, is best left playing a 7th or 8th defenseman role for this Islanders squad. Wahlstrom, while still bright and promising, has just not been the same since returning from two healthy scratches on April 8 and 9, so he too exited the lineup to give way for Bailey.
Cal Clutterbuck, also injured in recent action, did not return to the lineup on Tuesday. In his stead, Leo Komarov continued fulfilling the duties of the noble fourth-line winger. He threw a hit, he blocked a shot, he got under the skin of Rangers defenseman Adam Fox on several occasions. We love to see it. Leo is a natural as a bottom-six winger, and he’s probably better there than Clutterbuck at this point.
Finally, Semyon Varlamov returned to the crease on Tuesday. He saved 1.77 goals above expected (GSAx) and turned away all but one high danger shot in the outing. After the way in which fans had swooned over Ilya Sorokin’s shutout performance on Sunday, it’s nice to see Varly come back and remind us why he’ll likely get starting duties come playoff time.