For 90% of the teams in the league, teams use their fourth line around seven minutes a night essentially to give their top-nine a rest and maybe sometimes to kill penalties. Well, the New York Islanders for years have gone about it a completely different way.
The line of Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck is their identity. They play Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello hockey and they are extremely important to the Isles success. Last night was the perfect example of that.
The line combined for nine hits and three points including the game-winning goal. It was a performance of the ages for the line. First, we’ll look at the play from Cal Clutterbuck on the Mat Barzal goal.
Good things happen when you put the puck on net! All Clutter does is throw something on net and Andrei Vaselevskiy left a huge rebound for Mat Barzal who was basically all alone down low. A heads up play from Cal.
Then, on the Isles third goal of the game, the game-winner, it was Cal Clutterbuck and linemate Matt Martin teaming up.
How about Matt Martin calling his shot? On the day before his mom’s birthday and on the day his brother-in-law gets married, Matty finds the back of the net because of course, he does. This is just your typical grind it out fourth line play with a little spice.
Martin showed off a little on the backhand as he was able to sneak one past the Lightning’s netminder. It was the Isles depth that got it done last night.
Sure, they aren’t sexy on the ice, they don’t usually put up a ton of points but they play the game the right way, and last night they were rewarded for it. If the Islanders are going to beat teams like Pittsburgh, Boston, or Tampa they need their depth to take over.
This team doesn’t have the high-end depth but man they can grind you out and play a structured and frustrating game. More of this in Game 5 and beyond, please.
As for Cizikas, Clutterbuck, and Martin, we’ve come to expect it. The best fourth line in hockey doing the best fourth line in hockey things on a nightly basis is nothing new.