If you’ve watched the Islanders this postseason, all the talk has been about how they’ve excelled at running all four lines and it amounts to success.
But there have been times — not often but some — where all four of Barry Trotz’s units aren’t going at the same speed. And that means one or maybe two lines stepping their game up.
Last night, in the Islanders’ 3-1 victory in game three against the Philadelphia Flyers, it was the third and fourth line who came to the forefront once again.
“We’re not probably blessed with a lot of those top-end guys in terms of heavy, high-offense guys but we have a lot of valuable role players who can contribute,” Trotz said to the media after the win. “Guys feel like they’re a part of it.”
I say once again because we’ve seen those two units have had huge impact on the run the Isles have gone on in the Toronto bubble thus far.
We saw it to open the bubble against Florida when J.G. Pageau and Derick Brassard — on the third line — hooked up for the team’s first goal of the playoffs. We saw it the following game (game two versus the Panthers) with fourth-liner Matt Martin tying the game in the second period off a beautiful feed from Tom Kuhnhackl. And witnessed it in droves last round in games two and five against the Washington Capitals from Pageau, Martin and Cal Clutterbuck.
Well in game three, that impact belonged to Martin, Brassard and Leo Komarov.
Trailing 1-0 in the second, the Isles began to take the game over with their forecheck. Just after the 13-minute mark, Mathew Barzal got a loose puck on a dump in and found a streaking Martin heading straight to the net. Martin was able to sneak a shot past Flyers goalie Carter Hart to even the game at one.
The goal was Martin’s third of the playoffs and his fourth-career tally in the postseason.
As the clock winded down after the Isles dominated the second period, it was Brassard and Komarov who would go to work, which would lead to the proverbial game-winner.
Brassard, who was re-inserted back into the lineup after sitting out the last three games, pulled off a vintage “Big Game Brass” shift, creating a turnover and putting pressure on Flyers’ d-man Matt Niskanen, and eventually stripping the puck from him and hitting Komarov whose backhand just squeezed through Hart’s legs and into a yawning cage.
In the final seconds of the period! 🚨
— #StanleyCup Playoffs on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) August 30, 2020
“I think with Brass, he’s a guy who is really a valuable piece for us,” Trotz added. “What Brass usually does with us when he gets the opportunity to get back in the lineup, he usually makes the most of it. So I was hoping for that response and he made the most of it.”
How about Leo Komarov though? He just continues to be as effective as ever in the playoffs.
Komarov has always caught a lot of flack from the fan base, but there’s no denying what he means to this team.
“Anybody who has Leo, he’s obviously a seasoned pro, but he brings people into the fight,” said Trotz.
“He’s sometimes not the prettiest guy to watch, but he’s a guy who gets his nose dirty all the time. Every team has characters, Leo is a character. Not only that, he’s a good player for us and he’s a good piece.”
The Islanders’ bottom two lines continue to get the job done this postseason. Both units have wreaked havoc and came through in big spots.
Last night they were at it again.
Follow me on Twitter @RTaub_