2. The Barzal line’s performance
The Mathew Barzal line featuring Jordan Eberle and Leo Komarov played only 8:34 of 5v5 action on Saturday night, the lowest TOI of any Islanders forward line at 5v5. That line has not been great for New York recently, and as such, it isn’t difficult to see why they saw reduced ice time in game one.
That said, they did track as the team’s best forward line for the night in xGF%, according to Natural Stat Trick and MoneyPuck. They also played an integral part in creating the team’s only actual goal at 5v5 for the night.
However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Barzal and his partners have been outplayed by opposing top lines in most games during the 2020-21 playoffs, and the contrast never seemed as stark as it did in Saturday’s game one.
The Bruins top forward group dubbed the perfection line, starred in Saturday’s contest. David Pastrnak, the pure sniper of that trio, had a hat-trick in game one, and his linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand created a slew of dangerous plays for their teammates all night.
The Bruins controlled the puck in dominant fashion with their top line on the ice, winning the total 5v5 shot attempts battle in a 23-6 rout. With that group on the ice Boston also controlled 88.86% of xG, when adjusted for score and venue.
The takeaway here is simple, there is no Islanders line that needs to up its performance, and now, more than the Barzal group. They were decent on Saturday night, which easily passed them as the Islanders best forward trio in game one, but they need to be better than decent.
The Islanders need Barzal to be great. They need him to be Mathew Barzal. If they’re going to win game two and shift the balance of this series in their favor, they need Barzy to elevate those players around him and begin producing like the $7 million center they’ve entrusted him to be.