It took a couple of months, but Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri have officially arrived.
When Lou Lamoriello acquired the two Devils just before the trade deadline, it was universally praised in the hockey world as a savvy pickup. They were two experienced veterans that have gone on playoff runs before and know what it takes to win. It’s those intangibles that stick out, even when they aren’t producing on the scoresheet. Palmieri had two goals and two assists in 17 regular season games with the Isles; Zajac just one goal and one assist in 13 games.
Fans were getting frustrated with the lack of production, and understandably so, as Taylor Hall — the other viable option the Islanders were looking into — didn’t seem to have any problems fitting into his new team.
While it was a rough beginning, the trade couldn’t be fully evaluated until the playoffs began. Ten games into the postseason, the trade can be graded as a win for the Islanders.
Palmieri leads the Isles with five goals and seven points, and Zajac, who has only one point – an assist – has been an absolute beast serving as a responsible checker on the Isles’ third line.
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) June 6, 2021
“I don’t think Travis Zajac lost a puck battle tonight. He was, I thought, really good. You see why he was a captain in New Jersey,” head coach Barry Trotz said after the team’s game four win.
The tenacity that Zajac has brought to the lineup, replacing the injured Oliver Wahlstrom, is something not many Isles fans might’ve been aware he was capable of. That third line of Palmieri-J.G. Pageau-Zajac has been arguably the team’s most consistent line this series. They have been tasked with shutting down Boston’s “Perfection Line” and they’ve done a solid job thus far.
In fact, last night the Bruins top unit didn’t record a single shot on goal the entire game 5-on-5. A lot of that success has to do with Pageau and Zajac’s ability to be hard on pucks and people and make smart reads in the defensive zone. You can see the trust Trotz has in that unit, and they will play an important role going forward if the Isles are going to take the series.
“Obviously playing against [Pageau] for all of these years you know what type of player he is and how effective he is,” Palmieri said last week. “We’ve started to develop some chemistry and our games complement each other well and we’ll continue to grow on that and continue to try and make an impact and help our team win.”
After Palmieri scored the tying goal last night (set up by the incredible work of Mathew Barzal) fans were clamoring for more ice time for Palmieri with Barzal and Jordan Eberle, but Trotz put that hope to bed after the game.
“You can play fantasy hockey all you want. I think Leo’s good with Barzy. Palms is pretty valuable with that line (Pageau and Zajac) too,” Trotz added postgame.
READ MORE: Repetto: Barzal Heating Up at the Right Time
Continuity is extremely important for the Islanders’ bench boss and he’s won enough games in his career for fans to trust him. It’s gotten them this far, right?
Side note: This is too good not to share again…
Mat Barzal after being named First Star in Game 4: "Let's Go. Our house" pic.twitter.com/IZSZ4dkWZA
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) June 6, 2021
Follow Ethan on Twitter at @egreenberg99