Mathew Barzal hasn’t been what you’d call a difference-maker for the New York Islanders in this series so far. The Islanders star center has been kept pointless and even a little anonymous over these two games.
The Islanders need their star center to start being that difference maker ASAP.
I’m sure Barry Trotz won’t make any changes to his top line for Game 3 tonight, but if he was going to, here are a few options for him to use and why.
New York Islanders options for the top line
Bailey and Palmieri
The Islanders brought in Kyle Palmieri for a reason, and we all thought that reason was to play in the top six and maybe even alongside Mathew Barzal. So far he’s played on the third line with Pageau and Wahlstrom. And while that line has been good for the Islanders the top line has not.
It seems that no matter who you put with Pageau they find a way to be productive so the worry of breaking up a working line to fix the top line shouldn’t matter.
With Palmieri, the top line gets a volume shooter who tosses puck from anywhere in the offensive zone. You can say Eberle is a shooter but he’s not about to rip pucks from the top of the faceoff circle. Eberle likes to get in tighter and certainly loves to use that backhand.
Putting Bailey on the left gives the line more offensive potential than keeping Komarov there.
(To be fair to Leo he’s played well so far in this series.)
I’ve been pulling for a Beauvillier-Barzal reunion for some time now. And I’m back at again here. I think both have this untapped chemistry that we are being denied from seeing. So far in the playoffs, they have about three minutes of shared 5on5 ice time. It’s not much but clearly, the seed is planted in Barry’s mind that it could work.
By moving Beau up it opens spots within the rest of the lineup. The second line stays veteran-heavy with Bailey moving to the left of line two and Palmieri taking the right spot next to Nelson. Komarov goes down to take LW duties on the Pageau line.
Eberle is the Issue
While Mathew Barzal gets much of the attention for the woes of the Islanders top line, he isn’t the only top-line player who isn’t contributing. Where has Jordan Eberle gone? Maybe he’s the issue with the line and not Barzal.
Barzal is going to receive the bulk of the Penguins defensive attention out there, which should give Eberle plenty of space to make an impact. That hasn’t happened. Maybe if Barzal had a winger that could take advantage of that extra time and space he’d be able to breathe and produce out there.
So why not keep Komarov up there with Barzal and move Eberle down to the third line with Pageau and Wahlstrom?
There’ isn’t much disruption to the lines with only two players swapping places. The second line stays intact to play its 200-foot game. Meanwhile, Eberle could benefit from a third-line deployment to get his game going again.