Islanders Need More From Their Best Player
By Matt O'Leary
A six-game losing streak is not one anyone picture the 2021-2022 entailing for the New York Islanders. Sure, a 13 game road trip, a COVID outbreak, and an injury to Ryan Pulock certainly doesn't help things but the Islanders are quickly losing ground in the playoff race.
I'd like to preface this article by saying that the losing streak isn't on one player in particular. There are a ton of reasons why this team is where it is right now but today I wanted to look at the Islanders best player, Mathew Barzal.
Barzal is the Islanders most dynamic player and it's not really all that close. They don't have a ton of elite offensive talent but the playmaking abilities from Mathew Barzal more often drive this team offensively. There's a saying that I like to use and it's "The Islanders offense goes as Mat Barzal goes" and with six goals for the team in the last six games, it's not going very well.
In the team's first 15 games, Mat Barzal has just eight points (four goals, four assists). That's a pace of 44 points over a full season. Sure, he's still second on the team in points trailing only Brock Nelson and you can absolutely argue that a 44 point pace being second on the team in points is an issue. You're correct, more specifically though, that person being Mat Barzal is a major problem.
In his last five games, Barzal has just one point a goal against Tampa Bay in a 4-1 loss on the road. The underlying numbers haven't been great either, here are some metrics with how he ranks on the team (via Natural Stat Trick):
Matthew Barzal Stats
CF%: 46.98 (10th)
GF%: 47.37 (11th)
xGF%: 46.22 (16th)
SCF%: 42.63 (15th)
HDCF%: 44,14 (19th)
For someone who is expected to be the carrier offensively, this frankly doesn't cut it. I know it's been a revolving door of wingers this year, and sure it probably isn't "fair" that Barzal has been asked to play with the number of forwards that he has already but that's his job. He's supposed to make his linemates better, not the other way around.
In a perfect world, yes, he would have a star winger next to him and it would be easy but when you're in the kind of drought the Islanders are in right now sometimes you need your best player to come out and dominate a game. So far, we haven't seen it yet from Mat, and with everything else going wrong around him, there's not much left for the Islanders offensively.