As the Islanders get set to begin their chase for Stanley Cup this Saturday, a big opportunity is out there for several forwards to step up.
It’s been beaten to death how inconsistent the club’s offense was in the regular season following the 17-game point streak. Need I remind you they basically had one effective line for almost a month span before the coronavirus pandemic hit? But that’s all in the past.
These playoffs are a brand new ballgame. And just like Jordan Eberle did last spring, one player’s performance can really set the tone.
Eberle’s play was truly the driving force behind the Isles’ first-round sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He performed like a man on a mission and was electric. The Penguins’ defense really had no answer for him at even strength or on the power play.
If the Islanders are going to make a run these next two months, they will need someone to repeat Eberle’s act. Which begs the question: Who can be that guy?
Well, you could go right back to the source in Eberle to start. It was obvious what is was capable off when motivated.
This season wasn’t the most sparkling for Eberle either, which might be some extra motivation. Eberle got off to a slow start after getting sidelined early on, but he was playing quite better before the break and was producing on the first line with Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee.
Head coach Barry Trotz is definitely going to lean on a player like Eberle because he is one of few skilled forwards the Isles possess.
Maybe it turns out to be Anders Lee or Anthony Beauvillier.
Both these guys started off hot and fizzled the rest of the year. Lee in particular, even with his 20 goals this season, didn’t have that same impact he had in recent years. A strong postseason from him would be huge.
Beauvillier has the kind of tools to produce at a high level in the playoffs. But he needs to truly show it once and for all. Anything close to or better than what Eberle did, and Beauvillier could really make a statement to the organization about how he should be viewed moving forward.
What about Derick Brassard or J.G. Pageau?
These two are notorious for being playoff performers in the past, Brassard with the hated-Rangers and Pageau with the Ottawa Senators. That does bode well for the Isles. The fact they have a connection helps too; Brassard and Pageau will make up tw0-thirds of the third line when the postseason starts.
Getting a strong playoff from either individual can be key to the Isles being successful.
Then there are some unusual suspects.
Could Michael Dal Colle bust out? It’s not impossible.
Sure he won’t be getting top-six minutes, but Dal Colle is the kind of player who could fly under the radar. Dal Colle’s got some size and some skill which could help him. And who knows, playing on a line most likely with two vets in Brassard and Pageau, maybe the 24-year-old finds that next level in his game and puts on an Eberle-esque performance.
Leo Komarov? Tom Kuhnhackl? Either member of the fourth line? It’s highly unlikely, but the playoffs are a crapshoot for any player. Plus, it’s not for a bottom-six guy to get hot for his team if they’re going on a run. There have been many cases of it happening in the past.
I didn’t forget about Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey or Brock Nelson. Those three guys though are expected to be the team’s best forwards, so them performing at a high level wouldn’t come as a shock to many.
With that said, whoever does become this postseason’s Eberle, the Islanders should benefit from it in spades. Now we’ll just have to wait to find out exactly who it is.
Just a few other thoughts:
-I believe Barry Trotz will know who his game one starter is when the buzzer sounds Wednesday night against the Rangers. Don’t be surprised if Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss each get half a game in the exhibition to make one last case for why they should get the nod. Either one of them will make for an interesting matchup going up against Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky.
-Kudos to Noah Dobson if Trotz tabs him for Saturday’s opener. It’s apparent he made some huge strides in the four months the league was shut down and in this short summer camp. Dobson does add a little something extra to the blue line and might surprise some people. Remember, he does have some playoff experience from his time in the QMJHL — 51 games and back-t0-back Memorial Cup titles.
-This whole new guitar fad the Islanders’ players have gotten into should make for some excellent content over the next few weeks, as if it hasn’t already.
Paparazzi caught a few members of the traveling band arriving in Toronto 🎸🎸🎸 pic.twitter.com/FKPThWh0XJ
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) July 27, 2020
-Sometime this week Isles fans will finally witness a sight they’ve been waiting four years for. Well, technically it’s actually six. Ilya Sorokin will finally be donning the orange and blue. I’m sure the reaction on social media when that does happen might be the most come-together moment ever on IslesTwitter. I’m joking. We do know one thing, he won’t be wearing Billy Smith’s retired number 31. Besides, 30 seems much sweeter for a certain reason if you know what I mean.
-If you missed Jon Ledecky and Oak View Group CEO’s interview this past Saturday on NHL Network Radio, it was fantastic. Both gave Isles fans a glimpse of just how magnificent UBS Arena is going to be for everyone involved with the organization. Ledecky’s quote about not having to wait 30 minutes for the bathroom or 20 minutes for a cold hot dog anymore was priceless.
-Enjoy hockey season being back, even if it’s only until the middle of next week. No one thought we’d see the sport return after the coronavirus wreaked havoc on the world. Remember this too — this is as even a playing field as there ever will be for the playoffs. The Islanders have just as good a shot at winning the ‘whole f’ing thing’ as any of the 23 other teams.
Let the fun begin.