After weeks of intrigue concerning who would be playing alongside Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal on opening night, it was indeed 23-year-old Simon Holmstrom getting the first opportunity to stick on a line the New York Islanders are expecting to produce a lot this season.
Holmstrom looked comfortable on the top line in Saturday night's 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres, and the good news is there is still room for improvement. “Holmstrom looked good with them,” head coach Lambert said after the game. “He was hunting pucks down and creating some turnovers. I thought he made some good passes and good plays. I’d like him to shoot a little bit more, but certainly, I thought he was complimentary to those guys for sure.”
Lambert noted he wants Holmstrom to shoot more, which links back to a play in the second period where Holmstrom, Horvat, and Barzal came in on a 3-on-2. Holmstrom was straight-on with the goaltender but instead had pre-determined to pass the puck to Barzal on his right. Barzal had no angle to shoot and had to try a difficult pass across the crease to Horvat that didn't connect.
"I trust my shot as well, and I trust my instincts. So I mean, he's an unbelievable player [Barzal], but I gotta make the right choice as well," said Holmstrom after the game.
While then line was kept off the scoresheet, they attempted 15 shots-on-goal and registered 11 for the game. Horvat, looking for bigger production in his first full season with the Isles, had eight shots to lead all players on Saturday night and was his reliable self in the face-off circle.
The more Holmstrom gets comfortable, the better he and the line will be. At times, that means the second-year player will need to be selfish on occasion even when playing with two All-Stars.