The New York Islanders are doing their signature late regular-season skid right now. The problem is, within this division, with these great teams, there is no room for a skid. The Islanders have 7 games left, and 4 of them are easily winnable. If the Islanders can’t sneak out at least 6 points from 4 games against the Devils and Sabres, they shouldn’t be in the playoffs. The other three games are against their archenemy, the New York Rangers, and the big bad Boston Bruins.
The Islanders have a clear shot into making the playoffs, all they have to do is beat the Rangers in regulation twice. These lines that Barry Trotz has been putting together as of late haven’t been cutting it. I think tonight’s lineup should read as such.
Mat Barzal is never coming off of the first line, he’s the best player on the ice at all times. Barzal needs to get going, 13 straight games without a goal aren’t going to cut it. The Islanders traded for a power forward who can snipe and is used to playing first-line minutes. Kyle Palmieri needs to be on the first line for at least 3 games before Trotz switches it up again. On the right-wing, I think Jordan Eberle still earns his spot there. He’s really been playing solid Hockey, he just needs a little help from his linemates.
Oliver Wahlstrom should be playing every single night regardless of his play from the prior night. Trotz is hurting the younger kids’ development by sitting them every time they make a mistake. You cannot play good Hockey if you’re afraid to mess up. Wahlstrom should be accompanied by Brock Nelson, the two are a perfect fit. Nelson loves slashing to the net and dangling around defenders, why not give him someone who can rip it into the toy department from the faceoff circle. The right-wing on this line is a little sketchy. Travis Zajac needs to step his play up. For a forward line to work, all 3 guys must be on their toes and moving. Zajac moves in slow motion.
I have no idea why Trotz broke up the line of Anthony Beauvillier, JG Pageau, and Josh Bailey. That line just works to perfection for some reason. Pageau winning faceoffs and cutting to the net mixed with Josh Bailey’s good passing and Beauvillier’s speed is a nightmare for defenders. This line just works, and there is no reason to move any of these guys.
The energy line will remain the energy line. These guys play really well together when things are clicking. But, they shouldn’t be relied upon to get a goal. I still think Clutterbuck, Martin, and Cizikas have another year left together.