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Simpson: Heating Up? Bailey, Eberle, and Nelson Finding Their Groove

One of the most pleasant surprises of Game 5 was that the Islanders spread their scoring throughout their lineup. Although the media has rightly highlighted Mathew Barzal’s renewed offensive success, through the first four games of the series only Barzal, Kyle Palmieri, J.G. Pageau, and Casey Cizikas had scored more than once against the Bruins. The latter two secured their second goals on empty-netters in Game 4.

Despite having three assists, Jordan Eberle had taken thirteen shots on goal without tallying once; Josh Bailey had but a single goal; and Brock Nelson looked frustrated in his efforts to score, although he set up Bailey’s goal in Game 2.

Things were different in Game 5. Part of this was due to the Islanders capitalizing on their power play chances; some of it was due to shifting Pageau to play in Nelson’s spot between Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier.

Whatever the explanation, these three forwards had solid games in a contest where every goal mattered.

Midway through the second period, both Eberle and Bailey had recorded assists on goals as part of a 2-2 game, but Bailey had flubbed an ideal opportunity to score. Then all three got into the act.

First Bailey converted a short pass from Pageau after Beauvillier had emerged from behind the net to play the puck to the slot. Just over two minutes later, with the Islanders on the power play, watch as Eberle and Barzal work together, with Eberle setting himself up in the open while Barzal darted about, in part to avoid a broken stick.

Those two goals gave the Islanders a 4-2 lead through two periods. In the third Nelson got on the scoresheet, in part due to Beauvillier’s hustle and a leaping stop by Adam Pelech to keep the puck in the offensive zone:

Nelson and Bailey were key contributors to the Islanders’ first round triumph over the Pittsburgh Penguins, helping the team to overcome Barzal’s struggles. While Eberle had a decent series against Pittsburgh, he has been all too often playing on the perimeter or not getting into position to take a quick shot.

For Eberle and Bailey to have two-point games in Game 5 and for Nelson to break through may be a sign that they are finally heating up, giving the Bruins even more problems as Game Six approaches.





Follow Brooks on Twitter at @BrooksDSimpson

About Brooks Simpson

Brooks Simpson writes, teaches, and speaks on American history and politics as a professor at Arizona State University. A native Long Islander, he has been an Islanders fan since the franchise's inception in 1972.

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