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Islanders third line stands out for Isles and entire NHL

BRIDGEPORT, CONNECTICUT - OCTOBER 02: (L-R) Zach Parise #11 and Jean-Gabriel Pageau #44 of the New York Islanders look up at the scoreboard during the first period against the New Jersey Devils during a preseason game at the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard on October 02, 2021 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
BRIDGEPORT, CONNECTICUT - OCTOBER 02: (L-R) Zach Parise #11 and Jean-Gabriel Pageau #44 of the New York Islanders look up at the scoreboard during the first period against the New Jersey Devils during a preseason game at the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard on October 02, 2021 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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From the start of the season, there’s been one big positive for the New York Islanders, even though the dismal first few games. And that’s been the team’s third line.

The trio of Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zach Parise, and Oliver Wahlstrom has been outstanding for the Islanders. Now, they’ve only combined for five points (Wahlstrom with three and Pageau with the other two), but we know that it isn’t all about production in Barry Trotz’s system.

Production will come if players play the “right way”, and well the third line has been doing just that.

New York Islanders third line better than most lines

Through six games the Isles third line has been a dominant force for the Islanders. Again, not in terms of production per see. But with how they play the game with the constructs of the Islanders defense-first system.

In these six games, the Parise-Pageau-Wahlstrom are the only skaters to hold a positive or even (50%) 5on5 Corsi rate. Remember, they play on the third line and that means they have more defensive responsibility. Just look at zone starts for example.

The three start the majority of their shifts in the D-Zone: 63.2%, 68.1%, 59.5% (Parise, Pageau, Wahlstrom). They play primarily in the D-zone but still produce a positive or even shot share. That’s very impressive.

And it gets better. When you look at expected goals-for (the metric that measures quality chances for vs. against), the three are either over or just below 60% xG%: 62.68%, 59.97%, 60.32% (Parise, Pageau, Wahlstrom). They aren’t just getting more shots in the O-Zone than they face in the D-zone, but they’re constantly generating good chances up the other end of the ice.

As a line, Parise-Pageau-Wahlstrom holds a 58.3% xGF%, which, according to MoneyPuck.com, is the 17th best in the NHL for any line that has played at least 35 minutes of 5on5 time. Not just for third lines, but for any line.

That’s a big deal not just for the league as a whole, but for Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders. When that line is on the ice they generate more scoring opportunities than they allow. Which is the entire ethos of the Islanders system.

This third line has been incredible and better than most in the NHL.

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