After leaving Game 5 between the Islanders and Penguins due to injury, Oliver Wahlstrom has yet to return to the lineup. While Wahlstrom is healthy, it doesn’t look like he’ll be returning any time soon.
The hope for those who want to see a Wahlstrom return was that Trotz would want to make a change after a loss and after Travis Zajac’s three penalty night.
When Barry Trotz spoke today he told reporters that Wahlstrom is available but isn’t sure if he’s a candidate to return. In all likelihood, it will be the same lineup for Game 3.
While I understand those who would like to see Oliver Wahlstrom back, I too am a big Wahlstrom fan, right now I’m not sure the Islanders should change what’s been working for them. The same goes for putting Kyle Palmieri up top.
During the playoffs, Mat Barzal has just a 34.7 faceoff percentage. He’s struggled, so having Leo Komarov who is at least a passable 46%, and Travis Zajac at 52.6% in the lineup seems like a wise choice for Barry.
Sure, Oliver Wahlstrom provides more offensive pop than both of those players. No one will argue otherwise. He just isn’t the best fit to come into the lineup for either Leo or Zajac at this present time.
If for some reason there is an injury to one of Jordan Eberle, Kyle Palmieri, Anthony Beauvillier, or Josh Bailey then sure, Wahlstrom is the first guy off the bench to come in and play. Right now, the Islanders are focusing on their defense and faceoffs, something that Wahlstrom isn’t particularly strong at.
Again, I have high hopes for Oliver Wahlstrom, I really do but in the semi-final against a potent offense like Tampa, one little mistake can kill you in a game. As we know, Barry Trotz trusts his veterans more, and even with a poor performance in Game 2, Travis Zajac has been excellent in his role for New York.
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This could change if there’s a scenario of back-to-back poor performances for Zajac but for now, I think his play has earned him the benefit of the doubt so far. Trust Trotz.