3 reasons the NY Islanders should have more optimism this postseason than last

A few key players could be the difference between success and failure against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Feb 8, 2024; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock (6) and New York
Feb 8, 2024; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock (6) and New York / Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
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2. Mathew Barzal finished the season healthy

Before the acquisition of Horvat, Lane Lambert had a revolving door in terms of his top-line construction. On opening night, the Islanders paired Josh Bailey and Oliver Wahlstrom with Barzal in search of offensive consistency. Unfortunately, Wahlstrom only played 35 games after having a strong start to the season. Once it became clear Bailey's production was in decline, Lambert went through leaps and bounds to find replacements.

The Islanders practically tried the entire roster on their top line with Barzal and nothing stuck. We even saw Matt Martin get top left-winger ice time, which is something the Islanders have never done before. However, Lamoriello had seen enough and acquired Horvat at the trade deadline. In the five games Barzal and Horvat played together, they each recorded goals and looked like a pairing destined for success. However, Barzal missed the final 24 games in 2022-23 and looked rusty against the Hurricanes.

Luckily, Barzal will finish the 2023-24 season healthy having appeared in 81 games. The 26-year-old centerman turned right winger has had his best performance since his Calder Award Winning season in 2017-18. He has scored 23 goals with 57 assists, marking his second time recording 80 or more points in a season. Since most of Barzal's ice time has come playing with Horvat, they have developed the chemistry Lamoriello and fans both envisioned at the all-star break in 2023. Without any concern for rust heading into the playoffs this season, fans will be more optimistic that Barzal will be a major factor against the Hurricanes in 2023-24.