New York Islanders forward Simon Holmstrom didn't become the Mathew Barzal-proclaimed "short-handed king" on his own; the 22-year-old Swede has had help along the way. While Holmstrom's short-handed prowess has become one of the best stories of the season, his newfound notoriety in this category hasn't been a one-man show.
JG Pageau has played Robin to Holmstrom's Batman in this dynamic short-handed duo. Pageau has had the primary assist on all five of his goals and is the first Islander in 42 years to have five short-handed assists in the season, joining: Lorne Henning 1976-77 (8), Bryan Trottier 1980-81 (5), Denis Potvin 1980-81 (5), Bryan Trottier 1981-82 (5) and Billy Carroll 1981-82 (5)
“Just good chemistry and a couple of lucky bounces of course,” Holmstrom said of the pair's shorthanded streak. “We're reading off each other pretty well.”
Luck? Nonsense! 1-2 goals are maybe luck; this has become a special part of the Isles' special teams, and for a team that has struggled on the penalty kill, sharing the league lead in short-handed goals has helped negate their 32nd-ranked PK.
"I think our first goal is to kill off the penalty, but it seems like we're having the bounces that kind of give us the opportunity to go and have chances," Pageau said in The Hockey News. "We're both thinking the same way when we get the puck. Sometimes, on the power play, you have those little tendencies of slowly slowing things down, and that's when you can take advantage of it."
Being on the assisting end of Holmstrom's goals has also helped cover Pageau's season, which has been underwhelming outside of the short-handed success. He didn't score his first goal of the season until Nov. 28 and had just two goals and 11 assists for the year. When you look at Corsi For (CF%), which measures short differential at even strength, his is at 37.7%, by far the lowest in his career.
There's still time for Pageau's 5-on-5 performance to improve, but until it does, the impact he and Holmstrom are making on the penalty kill has been worthy of their royal status - and if hockey (or at least Long Island) has crowned Holmstrom King, Pageau is the Prince.