There are number of things you can point to that have led to the Islanders’ underwhelming 3-4-2 start to this season. One of them, the missing presence from second-line center Brock Nelson, might be the most surprising and eye-opening.
Nelson, 29, was due for another breakout campaign but has had a very disappointing start to the 2020-21 season. His three points (two goals, one assist) place him seventh on the team in points and fifth amongst forwards.
In the Islanders overtime loss on Sunday, Nelson had the turnover which led to the Flyers’ first goal and he got spun into a pretzel on Kevin Hayes’ game-winner.
It was another moment early on this season where Nelson looked lost.
Head coach Barry Trotz has already silently called him out for his inconsistent play, which comes as a bit of a surprise being Nelson has been arguably the Islanders’ most steady forward under his tenure. He’s also called out his line as a whole. What’s more head-scratching to see is how unproductive #29 has been after his wonderful postseason performance in the team’s run to the Eastern Conference finals this summer. His 18 points in 22 games in the bubble were only two behind his linemate, Josh Bailey.
Nelson’s been known to ghost from time to time, but this nine-game stretch is reminding people of when Jack Capuano was behind the bench.
Now it’s still early — 47 more games left to be exact — and things can turn around for Nelson. We’ve seen in the past he can get going and it’s hard to turn him off. But this time around, the Isles need him to restart his season in a sense.
That means finding his game again right of the hop. That doesn’t even entail producing points every game, but more being noticeable with and without the puck. Just getting back on the scoresheet and getting him back to being that reliable offensive threat many believed he was heading into this year can bring back his confidence.
It’s also no secret the Islanders can certainly use his offense. The Isles, out of their four lines, have only had two show up most nights while some games it’s been just one trio, the first line. In addition, they’ve only produced 19 goals through nine games, which is dead last in the league. Nelson has just two of them on a measly 15 shots this season. Those numbers don’t equate to what Nelson has shown the last two seasons and how he’s evolved as a number-two center.
The Islanders are next set to play Saturday against Pittsburgh after having been off since Tuesday as a result of COVID-19 protocol. The game marks basically a second chance for them to restart their season and right the ship with what’s gone wrong so far.
For Brock Nelson, he’s in that same boat.
His season needs a re-boot and this mini-break hopefully was the cure to get Nelson back to being the player everyone knows he’s capable of being.
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