Lane Lambert: NY Islanders first line "needs to be tighter, more connected"

Apr 21, 2023; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders center Bo Horvat (14) celebrates the goal by
Apr 21, 2023; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders center Bo Horvat (14) celebrates the goal by / Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The NY Islanders brought Bo Horvat in to be a goal scorer. It was working at first, too, but then we know Mathew Barzal unfortunately went down for eight weeks with an injury. In his first six games with the Islanders, Horvat tallied three goals and five points and appeared to give the power play a bit of a boost with a pair of points. However, it ran dry following the Barzal injury and now that he's back and Anders Lee rounds out the first line, Islanders head coach Lane Lambert thinks the trio needs find a bit more chemistry in the first round matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes than they've had.

"It's not them individually, it's the (first) line itself," Lambert explained. "I think they've gotta be a little tighter, a little more connected, help each other out a little bit more."

After four games, the first line has just three points, a goal from each of Lee, Horvat, and Barzal. In comparison, the Hurricanes first line of Sebastian Aho, Seth Jarvis, and Jack Drury have a combined nine points in the series. None have come from Drury, but Aho has scored two goals and five points, while Jarvis has added two goals and an assists.

Barzal's eight week absence at the end of the regular season is easy to point to and wonder if that's why the line just isn't clicking right now, however, Lambert isn't buying into the narrative.

"No, I don't think it has anything to do with (Barzal) missing the time he did," Lambert said. "We've talked about it. This series has been even. You look at the even-strength scoring chances, we're ahead of them in goals at even strength. They play tight, we play tight and so you have to support. The (first line) has to have support as well."

In terms of offensive production, it's mostly come from Kyle Palmieri, Brock Nelson, and the blue line. Horvat finally got on the board at the end of Game 4, and the Islanders hope he can carry that momentum into Game 5. With their season hanging on by a thread, it's time for the Islanders first line to act like one, and for the Isles to get the goal scoring they paid for in Horvat at the trade deadline.