Before the New York Islanders blew a two-goal third-period lead and lost 4-3 in overtime to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, the lead story of the game was the dynamic play of Mathew Barzal. The flashy forward, who had been struggling to generate opportunities for himself or his linemates, had his best overall game of the season.
Barzal was flying from the jump and eventually ended up on the scoresheet. First, he had the primary assist on Noah Dobson's goal that opened the scoring. Later, at 7:46 of the second period, he orchestrated a perfect give-and-go with Bo Horvat and beat Antti Raanta for his second goal of the season. His 21:08 TOI led all Isles forwards, and his four shots on net tied for the team-high.
The noticeable uptick in Barzal's output and energy was not a coincidence. It was the result of a deliberate decision on how he was going to approach the game.
“I felt like I was doing a lot of stuff that I’m good at like twisting and turning and creating space and doing all that stuff using my speed,” Barzal said in AMNY. “The big thing for me last game was that I was hard on pucks, created some turnovers, and was good on the forecheck. When my game isn’t going well, I tend not to do that stuff as much and last game I just had an “eff it” kind of attitude.”
“I’m just going to skate as hard as I can,” Barzal added. “Get a little more Cizikas in my game.”
A little Zeeker in your game never hurt anyone.
Barzal now after two goals and six assists through 10 games, not far off from the point-per-game pace he maintained before getting hurt in February. That production is solid considering he is still tinkering with how he wants to approach playing the wing alongside Horvat and that it still doesn't feel settled who should be the third member of that line.
Barzal played faster and with more energy on Saturday night that he had at any point earlier in the season. He needs to bottle up whatever mindset led to that performance and have it be what Lane Lambert and his teammates should expect from him on a nightly basis.