2. The Fourth Line’s Fantastic Night
The Islanders fourth line was their best 5v5 unit in Saturday’s game. Obviously, Matt Martin’s goal which pushed the Isles out to a 3-0 lead late in the second period was a crucial contribution. As was Cal Clutterbuck’s low shot from the point which enabled Mathew Barzal to make it a 2-0 game only minutes earlier.
But the fourth line’s impact was felt in more than just the scoreboard.
That group was absolutely dogged on the forecheck and hemmed Tampa into their own end on a few different occasions. The most important of those forechecks was for a portion of what amounted to nearly two minutes of time spent in the Tampa zone in the final four and a half minutes of the third period.
Altogether, the fourth line totaled nine 5v5 hits among the three of them, according to Natural Stat Trick. With the fourth line on the ice, the Islanders controlled 72.7% of unblocked 5v5 shot attempts (FF%). 5v5 scoring chances (SCF) and expected goals (xGF%) were both heavily tilted in New York’s favor at 6-2 and 63.47% respectively. The latter stat having been adjusted for score and venue.
Casey Cizikas, entrusted with taking faceoffs in both the neutral and defensive zones, finished his night having won seven of nine draws in all situations, for a nearly 78% win rate.
That the Islanders don’t have the most star-laden lineup in the NHL is often brought to the forefront of the conversation when talking about the team. But, in the same breath the depth of this group, particularly at the forward positions, deserves hearty commendation.
It’s not every team that can so steadfastly rely on their fourth line as the Islanders did Saturday, and that’s just another part of what makes this Isles squad tick. Hopefully going forward we can see more of the same from this group because it’s quite obvious they’re a better team when Casey and Co. are firing on all cylinders.