3. Is it time for the Islanders to make a Lineup Change?
Oliver Wahlstrom was shown sitting in the press box on NBC Sports’ broadcast of Game Five, and it made me wonder whether we’ll see him play in Game Six at Nassau Coliseum with the Islanders’ backs against the wall.
Wahlstrom’s inclusion in Game Five’s lineup may or may not have made a difference in the game’s outcome. That point was argued online by several Islanders fans all throughout the game. But certainly, something can be said for rolling the best lineup the Isles have at their disposal in a Game Six win or go home situation.
That isn’t to disparage the lineup Trotz has fielded since Wahlstrom’s injury either. The Isles have won two series and finished each of their first two opponents in six games with this lineup.
That said, Wahlstrom pretty much undeniably brings more upside to any potential lineup than Travis Zajac (who could probably use a night off anyway) or Leo Komarov.
Wahlstrom’s rate of individual expected goal (ixG) creation per 60 minutes was better than any other Islanders player between mid-March and early April, and he outperformed his xG totals in that time by scoring 5 goals on 3.81 ixG, according to Evolving Hockey.
There’s also a case to be made that Trotz could go back to Michael Dal Colle in Zajac or Leo’s place. MDC has borne the brunt of a lot of disdain from the Islanders fanbase, and he certainly lacks the potential upside of Wahlstrom, but one thing he does really well is forecheck.
MDC’s rate of recovered dump-ins per 60 minutes was second highest on the Islanders throughout the regular season, according to Corey Sznajder. In a series which has seen both teams so heavily rely upon forechecking to create offense that’s a potentially valuable asset to have in your lineup.
Whatever Barry Trotz ends up doing with his lineup for Game Six, I think the fanbase having some faith in his decision is owed to him. He’s transformed this team from a core of underachievers to a group now in their second consecutive Stanley Cup Semi-Finals. Let’s just wait and see what he decides to do with this group on Wednesday night.