The New York Islanders have been searching for offense all season.
And recently, the tide has begun to turn in their favor.
Heading into their four-game Western swing starting tonight in Nashville, the Isles have scored three or more goals in six of their last seven games. Head coach Barry Trotz has watched his club been snakebitten on a lot of nights, but now they’re being rewarded for their efforts.
“I was real happy offensively; we held onto pucks, we were hard to check, we had some odd-man rushes and really executed through that,” Trotz said to newyorkislanders.com after the 5-3 win in Washington.
Trotz has every right to be over the moon about the explosion of offense lately. His team’s offensive production has been the topic of much debate all season because of their lack of finishers and long stretches of inconsistency from too many forwards.
What was missing early on this season which the Isles are receiving now, is the offense is filtering from up and down the lineup.
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) February 12, 2020
Josh Bailey has found his groove with six points in his last three games. Leo Komarov and Michael Dal Colle have been much stronger and added some huge goals as of late. D-men Devon Toews and Ryan Pulock have added some big-time moments with clutch goals. Then there’s Anthony Beauvillier.
Beauvillier is rolling once again as the games have gotten more crucial. This season has been a bit of a renaissance for the 22-year-old Sorey, QC native. He started off the year red-hot, stumbled a little bit, and now has six points in his last five contests.
[Beauvillier] was really skating today and he got rewarded,” Trotz said after his two-goal game Monday night.
“Everything from his wall play, to forecheck, to being hard to check down low, cutbacks; those things that make him special in that way. He used his assets today. The speed, the agility, and the quickness. You add that with a high degree of determination, and he got rewarded.”
Someone who should also be excited about the recent offensive surge is Mathew Barzal.
Barzal has been the clear cut driver upfront for the Isles all season. But there have been nights where he doesn’t have it. And the question that always lingered is, who would take the lead on those off nights when Barzal was quiet? Now it seems the Isles have been able to solve that equation in the short-term, which is significant for Barzal because it takes the pressure off his shoulders to try to do too much on his own and allows him to use his skill-set in other ways the team needs.
The Islanders are going to need Barzal on his A-game down the stretch, but as they continue to fight for playoff-positioning in the Metro and Eastern Conference, they are going to need their offense as whole to remain on this path too.
Points are at a premium every night right now. If all four lines for the Isles are contributing, they’re going to put themselves in much better shape and have a greater chance of being in a much more favorable spot come April.
They’re going to have to stay on that trajectory too without Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck.
Both are now out — due to getting cut by an opponent’s skate — and comprise two-thirds of the fourth line. Cole Bardreau was called up for his second stint to replace Cizikas and keep up the team’s “next man up” mentality. So he’ll get his shot at playing in some key situations while hopefully continuing the output that the Isles’ bottom-six has been giving lately.
This last stretch of games toward the postseason the Isles are about to embark on — plus the ones they’ve already been victorious in since the All-Star break — are going to have a playoff feel to them. Even though that means more low scoring and playing with a more defense-first mentality, getting goals and consistency from an offensive perspective is crucial.
The NHL Trade Deadline isn’t for another week and a half too. The options are still out there to really add another dynamic to the forward corps. G.M. Lou Lamoriello has the ball in his court to make a move or two.
The Isles offense showing good signs of life right now could prompt him to finally pull the trigger.
Follow me on Twitter at @RTaub_