Every week of the 2018-19 season, our Rob Taub will discuss one player from the Islanders to look out for. Whether it’s past performances, certain matchups, or something about that player that makes worth spotlighting, each article will describe why they are being featured. Also — if one or two players, or the team is coming off a good week — there will be multiple spotlights.
Heading into this season, it’s clear Jordan Eberle was going to be in a tough spot.
Eberle, 28, was brought to the Islanders before last season to play with his long-time friend, John Tavares. Tavares, is no longer with the Isles after bolting to join his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs on the first day of free agency. And then there’s the dynamic of Eberle playing in the final year of six year, $36 million dollar contract — four of those inflatable games six in Edmonton and the last two on Long Island. Because of that contract, and the fact that the brass was probably going to have to decide between him and now captain Anders Lee to see who’s going to be with the club long term, Eberle’s future as an Islander is questionable at best. That decision will come to pass when the time is right, but for now Eberle is one of the key players new head coach Barry Trotz is depending on.
It hasn’t been the easiest start to the season for Regina, SK native after scoring 25 goals and registering 59 points in 81 games a year ago.
Eberle has definitely had his chances, but one goal and three assists in the first ten games is all he has to show for now. He didn’t notch an assist till his fourth game of the year and didn’t get his first goal till game number eight last week against Florida. Those struggles could be chalked up to he and his running mate, Mathew Barzal, going up against the opposition’s top defensive pairings on the regular. The not-so-hot start might also have been affected by Anthony Beauvillier, the third man on the “EBB N’ Flow” Line, having trouble finding his game.
Since the start of the year, the Isles have been pining for production from Eberle, as well as the rest of the top-six. That need for offense finally prompted Trotz to reunite him with Barzal and Beauvillier.
It didn’t take long to realize that trio are just on another level when they’re together. That difference was easy to spot on Saturday during the Islanders second goal of the game. As you can see below, Eberle was able to chip a loose puck from Philly’s Nolan Patrick that found Barzal’s stick, he then trailed behind Barzal who fed him a nifty drop pass and found a streaking Beauvillier who beat Michal Neuvirth for his first of the year. The entire sequence galvanized the entire team and set the tone for a 6-1 blowout win. He didn’t record a point in yesterday’s 2-1 victory in Carolina, but it’s clear that when Eberle is playing with Barzal and Beau, there’s just a different feel about the team.
There's the magic #Isles pic.twitter.com/CdCANA7m1m
— IslesBlog (@IslesBlog) October 27, 2018
That different feel goes back to last year.
When the season started, Eberle was playing with Tavares and Anders Lee. After that experiment came to an end — contributed by the re-formation of the Josh Bailey, Tavares, Lee combo — Eberle found a niche playing with Barzal. Eberle connected instantly with the rookie, forming a very dangerous duo. Once Beauvillier came back from Bridgeport around the new year, the threesome were off an running. For a good month or so, that line was one of the most lethal in the NHL. The trio stuck until the end of the season. Eberle would end the year as the Isles fifth leading scorer.
Now that he’s back with his two gunners, Eberle should feel more comfortable and ready to break out.
With a home-and-home against the high-octane Pittsburgh Penguins and date with the pesky New Jersey Devils, the Islanders are going to lean on a Eberle to lead the way. Both those clubs are top-heavy and can score a lot of goals. Eberle needs to have a big week for the Islanders to end the first month of the season on a high note. He’s got 21 shots through the first ten games — tied for second most on the team. Even with those 21 shots, Eberle has no goals at evens strength. So, shooting more might be the way for him to try to provide more offense.
The Islanders have showed their offense can still be lethal without a certain number 91. Eberle is one of those guys that’s key for that to continue.
Hopefully this week the juices get flowing for Eberle that will translate for the rest of the season.
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