The New York Islanders evened up their series at 2-2 with the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday afternoon with a much needed 4-1 win.
After dropping games two and three, Islanders fans have been calling for Mathew Barzal to step up and produce. He showed up on the scoresheet in game three but he took it even further in game four, with his best game of the series so far.
Jordan Eberle is alive. What a feed from Mathew Barzal pic.twitter.com/G4QHuQ0BLN— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) May 22, 2021
Barzal’s performance in game four only saw him pick up two assists, but he was all over the ice, creating chances and skating circles around a majority of the Penguins. On top of that, it was a game where the puck continued to find his stick, giving him the chance to do something special.
There are a lot of factors that can go into Barzal’s big game, but the biggest has to be a strong game from Jordan Eberle and Barry Trotz finally deciding to shake things up, playing Kyle Palmieri on the top line and even keeping Barzal out there with Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier, all guys Barzal has had success with in the past.
Halfway through the second period, Barzal ended up on the ice with Beauvillier and Bailey, sparking the Islanders offense and giving them bundles of scoring chances. After that point, Trotz let Barzal take multiple shifts with that line and afterwards he finally removed Leo Komorov from the top line, something fans have been calling for since the team traded for Palmieri.
Barzal looked like a different player in the second half of the game because of those changes and it showed up on the scoreboard.
Even though it was Barzal’s best game of the series, he is still deserving of some criticism. Multiple times throughout the game, Barzal had chances to let the puck fly, but he repeatedly held the puck and looked for a pass, something you don’t always want your star player doing.
It seems like Barzal may not have confidence in his shot, especially after hitting the post on a first period breakaway, but the fact that he was getting these chances is a great sign and it could lead to even more offense in the rest of the series.
This felt like a long time coming for Barzal, but now with back-to-back two assist games at home, it finally feels like the offense is getting back on track. It’ll be important to see how they come out in game five to truly see if they are on the verge of a break out. If the Islanders are pointed to break out, look for Barzal, the biggest threat on the team, to be at the center of it.
Follow Ben on Twitter at @BenMandell55