Mathew Barzal ignites the power play
The loss of Mathew Barzal made a bad power play worse as the Islanders went just 6-for-55 (10.9%) with the man advantage in the final 23 games of the regular season after Barzal went down with a lower-body injury in Boston on Feb. 18.
When Bo Horvat was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks, it was expected to kickstart the Islanders' special teams. Horvat plays the bumper position on the power play, but success from there is predicated on the ability of your teammates to move the puck in a manner that allows you to create space and be fed the puck in a position to score a goal. Barzal can do that for Horvat, as evident by the six games they played together before the injury.
"He's got a tremendous amount of skill and his speed and ability to make plays," said Horvat of Barza's return. "It adds another dimension to our group. We're happy to have him back."
The first PP unit is will consist of Barzal and Horvat, with Anders Lee providing a net presence and the team's leading scorer Brock Nelson as the other forward. Noah Dobson is expected to quarterback that unit. The second PP unit has Sebastian Aho as the lone defenseman with Pierre Engvall, Kyle Palmieri, JG Pageau and Zach Parise.
The Islanders were 0-for-18 this season on the power play against Carolina, a team that finished 2nd overall on the penalty kill (84.4%). Playoff series are often decided on special teams with goals hard to come by at even strength. They'll come a time in this series when a power play goal can swing momentum. Barzal has to be at the forefront of making that happen when it happens.