3 lessons Patrick Roy learned when experimenting with the NY Islanders lines

The Islanders have played well with their traditional pairings over the past 3 games.
Mar 23, 2024; Elmont, New York, USA;  New York Islanders head coach Patrick Roy coaches against the
Mar 23, 2024; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders head coach Patrick Roy coaches against the / Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
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The NY Islanders woke up Friday morning with a different pep in their step. For the first time in weeks, the team was officially back in the playoff conversation. After defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Thursday night, the Islanders' record was 34-27-15 with 83 points. With help from the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Isles overtook the Washington Capitals for the second wild-card spot, albeit by one point. Considering the trajectory of this season, it is remarkable the Islanders are still alive with six games remaining.

The team's resurgence did not come overnight as many evaluations had to be made before the Isles finally started winning games again. As a new head coach just hired on January 20th, Patrick Roy experimented with different lines in search of an answer to the team's lackluster March performance. Since Roy did not get a chance to properly evaluate and implement his system during the pre-season, he has to make his best judgment on the fly. 

However, the Isles lost 8 out of 10 games after changes were made and have reverted to the lines previously drawn. Since then, the team has won 3 straight games. That leaves the question, what did Roy learn from this experiment?

1. Bo Horvat is not a winger

One of Roy's experiments was to shift Mathew Barzal off the top unit and utilize him as a centerman on the Isles' second line. In doing so, Bo Horvat was the centerman to both Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri. While Barzal found some success centering Hudson Fasching and Anders Lee, Horvat found none having not scored for six straight games.

In reaction to the top unit's lack of production, Roy shifted Horvat to the third line to play the left-wing position. In doing so, the natural centerman played alongside J.G. Pageau. However, this experiment was short-lived as Horvat failed to record a point for four straight games.

On April 1st against the Philadelphia Flyers, Roy finally paired Horvat back with Barzal on the Isles' top line. Since being back together, Horvat has scored goals in three straight games while Barzal has recorded four assists. For the time being, Casey Cizikas has played alongside the duo and has earned two assists. In evaluating the changes made, Roy quickly learned the team's best chance to win games is when Barzal and Horvat are on the ice together.