NY Islanders News

Do the NY Islanders have something in the briefly formed Lee-Nelson-Barzal line?

Oct 28, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA;  New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) celebrates
Oct 28, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) celebrates / James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
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The NY Islanders rallied back in the third period to defeat the Calgary Flames in overtime on Monday night after scoring two goals in the third period taking the extra point on the stick of Noah Dobson. When the Islanders needed a boost in the third period chasing two goals, head coach Lane Lambert put together a trio of players we haven't seen before. In an effort to load up one line, Lambert iced Brock Nelson at center, supported by his usual running mate Anders Lee on the left side, and new line-mate Mathew Barzal on the right.

Lambert seemingly found something in the small sample size with his new frontloaded trio. At 10:08 in the third period, the Islanders cut the Flames' lead to one with the new-look line on the ice. Barzal began the rush from the Islanders' end of the ice moving the puck into the Flames' zone. In typical Barzal fashion, he found space on the ice to dump a pass to Nelson who, in typical Nelson fashion, did not hesitate to shoot. Flames goaltender, Jacob Markstrom, made the initial save, but Lee, in typical Lee fashion, cleaned up the rebound as the net-front presence at the top of Markstrom's crease to bring the Islanders within one. It was exactly the jolt the Islanders needed as just 59 seconds later, Kyle Palmieri tied the game.

Over the summer when the rumors were swirling of the possibility that the Islanders were going to sign another center despite having four solid NHL center options, the talk turned to the possibility that Barzal would shift to the wing if a new addition were to come to fruition. Of course, that did not happen, however, in Monday night's game we got a glimpse of what that would look like.

Lambert iced the Lee-Nelson-Barzal line for a total of 3:57. It didn't take very long for that trio to make an impact and quite the significant one in a short amount of time. The goal they produced aside, a quick look at NaturalStatTrick will let you know that line dominated play together in their short stint. They produced an 85.71 CF% with a 12-2 shot attempt differential in favor of the Islander trio at 5on5. They registered eight shots for while allowing just one against and seven of those shots register as scoring chances. Of those seven scoring chances, four of them came at high danger and they did not allow any against.

Again, the sample size is quite small, but there is no arguing that this trio of Islander forwards are their three best. It was the first time we've seen them on the ice together, and there is no reason to believe it will be the last. Now, that's not to say that Lambert will make this a new line moving forward, but when the Islanders are in a pinch and need a punch, this could be the line you see Lambert throw on the ice.

However, there is always the possibility that the deck chairs in the forward group are shuffled again. Believe it or not, Josh Bailey was drafted as a center and transitioned to the wing. Bailey has taken a few reps at center in his NHL career, so there's an outside possibility he finds himself back in that position. Or perhaps Aatu Räty, who certainly made GM Lou Lamoriello eat his words in the preseason, gets a crack at his first NHL stint at some point this season, allowing the Islanders to run a front-loaded top line.

Whatever the case, Lambert appears to have found something by icing his best three forwards on the same line. The Islanders weren't able to find that scoring help via free agency or trade, but there's now a viable internal option to give the Islanders that legitimate threat they've been looking for. Who knows how often we see the trio moving forward, but it's certainly something for the Islanders' head coach to keep in his back pocket.

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