These last three games make you wonder what the New York Islanders would've done if they didn't bring back defenseman Scott Mayfield in free agency this summer.
In the first game without Mayfield, often lauded as one of the team's best penalty-killers, the Islanders allowed four power-play goals to the New Jersey Devils. Next, after losing a one-sided game, 3-1, to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night, they allowed five goals to the Colorado Avalanche before two empty netters made the final score 7-4. The 17 goals the Isles have allowed through five games is their most since the 2013 season.
Whenever a regular on the blue line goes out, it's understood that others will need to step up, but thus far, head coach Lane Lambert has yet to show enough trust in 22-year-old Samuel Bolduc, who played just 6:05 against the Avalanche on Tuesday.
"It was situational, but that's the biggest thing players need to learn in this league," Lambert said after Wednesday's practice. about Bolduc's lack of TOI "They need to be assertive every shift. You can't take a second off. It's a very demanding thing to understand, and he's still learning and growing with that."
“It’s not easy,” Bolduc said of the limited ice time in Newsday. “But you just have to be ready all the time so when he calls my name to go, I’ll be ready. “It could be better, for sure. There are always things you want to do better in every situation. Be more assertive and think less on the ice, and I’ll be fine.
According to Lambert, Mayfield is back skating on his own, but there is still no firm timetable for when he will be ready to return to the lineup. The team is going to have to count on Bolduc for at least a few more games, and he needs to be ready to assume a larger role if and when another member of the top six goes down for an extended period of time.
"Whenever somebody gets hurt, people slot differently, added Lambert. "It can mess with the balance with what's going on, but that's next man up mentality, and people have to step up to the plate and do that job."