Anders Lee will be back in the lineup for the New York Islanders game in Columbus. Lee missed the Chicago game with what he described as a possible stomach bug. Getting him back is a big boost for the Islanders who are trying to put up back-to-back wins for the first time this year.
But that boost will take a damper with the possibility of Jean-Gabriel Pageau missing tonight. According to Barry Trotz, the Isles third-line center will be a game-time decision in Columbus. And that’s a big blow for the Isles.
New York Islanders: Losing Jean-Gabriel Pageau, even for one game, is huge blow
Pageau might be the third line center on paper but he’s much more than that for the New York Islanders. Pageau plays in every situation (5on5, power play, and penalty kill) for the Isles and has consistently delivered.
Since his acquisition from the Ottawa Senators at the 2020 trade deadline, Pageau has 31 points in 64 games. Which essentially works itself out to 40 points over a full 82 game season. But his impact on the side goes beyond points.
The Islanders system is designed to limit the number of high-danger chances the opponent can create. In doing so the Islanders allow their opponent, basically, all the time they want on the puck. That means players spend a lot of time in the D-zone, specifically guys like Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
At 5on5 this year, 69% of Pageau’s shift starts are in the D-Zone. Yet, he still maintains a 51.69 CF%, 61.54 HDCF%, and a 65.19 xGF% (all at 5on5 of course). What that means is, while Pageau starts more than a third of his shifts in the defensive end, the Isles have a positive shot share, an impressive share of the dangerous opportunities, and an overwhelming number of expected goals-for when he’s on the ice.
(Shift starts from Hockey-Reference and CF/HDCF/xGF from NaturalStatTrick.)
Pageau, along with Parise and Wahlstrom, form an impressive third line that has been the best line for the Islanders in this short season.
Bellows May Step In
If Pageau isn’t good to go against the Blue Jackets, Zach Parise likely pulls center duties and Kieffer Bellows slides into the LW wing role. Lossing Pageau, even for a game significantly drops the effectiveness of that line.
Perhaps the lower stress of a third-line deployment is a better fit for Bellows who struggled to play to the top line in Chicago. But on paper, this is a big step back, albeit temporarily for the Islanders. Hopefully, Bellows can show his quality and prove me wrong.