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Islanders: Why Wahlstrom’s dominant game vs Chicago was important

Oliver Wahlstrom #26 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Oliver Wahlstrom #26 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday night New York Islanders winger Oliver Wahlstrom had easily his most dominant performance to date. Of course, goalie Ilya Sorokin was the first star on the night (or should have been), Wahlstrom’s efforts pushed his team to a much-needed first win on the season.

Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that coach Barry Trotz called out Wahlstrom for having a poor training camp. Not only was a performance like this needed from Wahlstrom to convince Trotz to continue playing him, but to also show us all that the sophomore NHL’er has the makings for more than a middle-six player.

New York Islanders: Why Oliver Wahlstrom’s dominant game is so important

And I know, some of you might say that Wahlstrom can already be a top-line player and that some fans have been calling for him to play on the top line for a while now. But that was a function of the Isles having a less than functional top line. With Anders Lee and Kyle Palmieri, the Islanders have that functional first line now.

With his two goals against the Blackhawks, his first being the game-winner, the eleventh overall pick from 2018 had his first multi-goal game for the Isles. But it wasn’t just the goal-scoring that made his game dominant (although that obviously helped).

It’s was a culmination of things for Wahlstrom. His stat line shows an impressive game:

  • Goals: 2
  • +/-: +3
  • Shots: 8

But it doesn’t end with his stat line. Wahlstrom made effective and smart plays off the puck as well. A key ingredient in having a larger role in a Barry Trotz side.

Wahlstrom only had two points, but he was robbed of an assist. His work down behind the Chicago goal line directly lead to Beauvillier’s opening goal. But his impact on the play starts before that play behind the net:

  • Wahlstrom is the one who gets in deep to retrieve the puck that eventually gets to Chara at the left point.
  • Wahlstrom immediately heads for the front of the net to redirect Chara’s shot.
  • With the puck redirected wide, Wahlstrom is back in the middle of things behind the net as he tries to work through three Blackhawks before Gustafsson chops the puck directly to Beau’s stick.

On Whalstrom’s first goal, he made a fantastic read to intercept a Chicago outlet pass at their own blueline. Sure, the resulting goal was marvelous, but to see Wahlstrom put himself in that position was just as eye-catching.

Remember, just two years ago, the Islanders sent Wahlstrom to the AHL in order to work on his overall game. Barry Trotz had specifically remarked that Walstrom needed to learn how to play the game after he was sent to Bridgeport.

That’s why Wahlstrom’s game was so important against the Blackhawks. Yes, it was a good display of the young man’s. goal-scoring abilities, but it also goes to show how far he’s come in so little time. He still has to show that he can do this on a more consistent basis, but this is a good first step to becoming what the Isles believed they picked in 2018.

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