At this time of the season in the NHL, if you’re in the fight for the postseason, teams look to their top guys to elevate their game. For the New York Islanders, they’ve received that extra boost lately from the trio of Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, and Mathew Barzal.
In the last five games, that threesome has combined for 22 points. Eberle, in particular,Â is red hot. He notched his fifth goal in the previous four games in last night’s overtime loss in St. Louis. Also, in the loss, Barzal notched his third straight multi-assist game while Lee extended his point streak to four games.
“He’s moving his feet,” head coach Barry Trotz told MSG’s Shannon Hogan after the game in regards to Eberle’s recent success. “He’s getting inside the hard areas, playing with a lot more poise and making good decisions. He’s in a groove.”
The Islanders have been waiting for the first line to turn it up another notch for a while.
The struggle to get consistency from all four lines has plagued the Isles all year long. Early on this season, it was the second unit — Anthony Beauviller, Brock Nelson, and Derick Brassard — who were carrying a bulk of the offense. Once those three were disbanded, the entire offense seemed to sputter. Some of that could also be due to injuries, as the team was without Casey Cizikas.
But while all that was going on, Barzal and Lee were dealing with the absence of Eberle.
Eberle had been sidelined with a lower-body injury that cost him ten games. Having that missing piece, Barzal and Lee had difficulty producing.
That’s clearly not the case now.
You can see those three are on their game. Don’t believe me? Watch the goal they created, which led to the Isles’ second goal last night.
It started with Barzal finding a loose puck in the neutral zone off a turnover. Barzal then raced his way into the Blues’ zone and stopped just past the blue line. He then fed a streaking Lee who found an uncovered Eberle. Eberle took the pass and made a nifty move and deposited one past Blues goalie Jordan Binnington.
— IslesBlog (@IslesBlog) February 28, 2020
Forget just rolling right now in terms of points; the first line is generating the most chances of any of the 12 forwards Trotz is deploying out every night.
“We were creating a bit, especially in the first [period] there,” Eberle said after last night’s game. “The biggest thing is when you’re playing well, you want to just continue to do the things that let you play well.”
That line continuing its recent surge could loom large for the Isles as they enter the home stretch. The Metro is so tight right now, and the team’s offense still not at full strength due to Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck still being out.
So, the more impact the Barzal-Lee-Eberle trio has on a nightly basis, the better the Isles have a shot at winning and the harder they are to defend.
Those three have gotten a good head start by how they’ve performed over the last five games. Now they need to sustain it.