The NY Islanders have been patiently waiting for years for Mat Barzal to reach the peak of his offensive capabilities, and it appears he's approaching that point.
Barzal has been playing some of the best hockey of his career over the last four games, totaling 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists). Named the NHL's second star of the week just a week ago, Barzal appears to be on his way to being recognized again this week, with his second four-point performance of the season last night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Barzal was a difference maker as the Isles held onto their third period lead where offense was their best defense. Struggling as a line through the first 30 minutes of play, Barzal was the pivotal contributor for the Isles, scoring the third goal of the game to give them the lead again, adding another goal and two more assists before the final whistle.
"It wasn't going great at first," said Barzal postgame. "I mean, we were playing all right, but the flow of the game wasn't there. You know, Bo's an opportunist. I'm trying to grow in that area of my game as well, and give us a few chances."
With little help alongside him on the Isles' top line over the past few seasons, the addition of Bo Horvat has paid dividends as the two are building dynamic chemistry, lighting up the scoresheet.
Barzal received the primary assist on both Horvat goals, with the second being a sleek pass from below the goal line to a cutting Horvat, who had a tap in from about a foot away. Horvat also assisted Barzal's second of the night, spotting his winger in prime real estate and dropping a nifty pass.
The Isles' offense is cooking at the moment with these two as the top chefs. Though Barzal has begun to showcase his offensive capabilities to the fullest, the offense goes as he does. Taking his game to the next level is essential to the Isles' success through the remainder of the season.