NY Islanders D was balanced with a 'rock solid' return of Pelech and Pulock

New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs
New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs / Chris Tanouye/GettyImages
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Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock didn't pick up where they left off.

They were better than that.

NY Islanders D was balanced with 'rock solid' return of Pelech and Pulock

The defense pair that has been playing less and less together since establishing themselves as a shutdown pair in the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs returned to the lineup and to old form in the New York Islanders 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first game after the All-Star break.

“What a performance from these two guys I mean they were rock solid and they were controlling the game,” Islanders head coach Patrick Roy said. “Obviously, I didn't know Pulock that much, but I mean I was pretty impressed by his performance tonight. He's a really good defenseman.”

Both Pelech and Pulock have missed 24 games this season. Last night's game was the first for Pulock since he suffered a lower-body injury vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets on Dec. 7. Meanwhile, the All-Star break afforded Pelech time to recover from Brendan Gallagher's elbow hit to the head that knocked him out of the game in Montreal and forced him to miss the game against the Florida Panthers. Like Pulock, Pelech had missed 24 games this season, but with a variety of injuries.

“It was good,” Pulock said. “I think after being out that long, that first period was tough. Just pace and stuff, getting back in it. I tried keeping it simple. Tried to take short shifts. Obviously, I thought we played a pretty good game.” 

The impact of having both defensemen back and playing together is far-reaching. Pelech (20:49) and Pulock (20:15) each logged over 20 minutes, providing some relief to Noah Dobson, who played "only" 23:15 last night. It also brought more balance to the lineup, with the other defenseman able to settle back into the roles outlined for them at the start of the season. One of the benefactors of that was Scott Mayfield, who generated the highest game score of any Islanders last night.

The one change from the start of the regular season was that Mike Reilly was inserted into the lineup and Sebastian Aho was a healthy scratch along with Samuel Bolduc. Reilly earned an assist on the first goal of the game when his shot hit the post and was shot in by Mathew Barzal on the rebound.

In a night of encouraging signs, a healthy Islanders defense core was the most to get excited about. The team's defense has struggled all season to remain healthy and lack of consistency and continuity has showed up in their play, especially late in games. Led by the reuniting of the Pelech-Pulock pairing, they have a chance to turn things around while adopted Roy's more aggressive man-to-man style of play in their own zone.