The Islanders won a thrilling overtime game, 4-3 over the Pittsburgh Penguins, to open the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There were many positives to point out in the game, such as Ilya Sorokin’s strong debut, Kyle Palmieri’s two-goal effort and the win itself. But the game was far from perfect for the Islanders and it all starts with Mathew Barzal.
I said before the series that Barzal was my X-Factor and it often felt like he was lagging in this one. It took him almost 68 minutes to register his first shot of the game and he seemed to struggle to create space when he did have the puck.
Barzal had a similar start to the postseason last summer in the bubble, not tallying a point until the fourth game of the qualifying round against Florida. After that he went on to record 16 points in 22 games.
Fortunately for the Isles on Sunday afternoon, the third line carried them to the victory, which is definitely better than losing the game. But it is also understood that the top line will have to produce for the Islanders to win this series, especially when the Penguins have Sidney Crosby on the other side. Crosby scored Pittsburgh’s second goal Sunday in only the way he can and led his team with five shots on goal.
When playing against a guy like 87 on the Pens, it means that your best guys have to be better and Barzal is the best the Islanders have to offer. It’s great when J.G. Pageau and Kyle Palmieri are able to produce, but Barzal will have to join the party for the Islanders to get past Pittsburgh starting Tuesday night.
Despite Barzal’s rough start to series, it’s still just game one and the Islanders came out on top. It could be a sign of good things to come for this team, especially if the Islanders can get more from their star player.
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