There’s a reason the New York Islanders are known for having the “best fourth line in hockey”.
They simply cause havoc and can change the dynamic of a game.
It was evident once again last night in the team’s crushing 2-1 loss in game two to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Needing a big-time start, following just an embarrassing effort in game one Monday night, Islanders’ head coach Barry Trotz deployed the Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck (a game-time decision) trio early in the game. And what did they do, they came through as advertised.
Martin, who had just five goals the entire regular season, got the Islanders an early lead when he chipped one over Andrei Vasilevskiy’s shoulder off a great feed from Nick Leddy.
That goal marked Martin’s fifth goal of the postseason.
Matt Martin! Goal number five this postseason! pic.twitter.com/dMBE395WVH
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) September 10, 2020
From there, that entire line was off and running. They were the Islanders’ best line by a mile last night. That trio combined for five shots, 18 hits, and one fight when Martin dropped the gloves with Bolts d-man Luke Schenn.
What we witnessed from that trio in the loss shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone whose been around the Islanders for a long time now. Ever since that “Identity Line” as Trotz likes to refer to them as first became a thing, they’ve been one of the more prominent threesomes people identify the Isles with. They’ve been lauded for how cohesive a unit they are and because they play the game how it’s supposed to be played — hard-nosed, physical, balls-to-the-wall.
In this postseason run, the threesome has continued to live up to that billing. Whenever the Isles have needed a big moment, it’s been those guys who have stepped up. Martin — as previously mentioned — has scored huge goals; so has Clutterbuck. Cizikas, despite not scoring, has made his impact on games with his relentless motor and hows he’s thrown his body around.
— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) September 10, 2020
“We always talk about them as the fourth line, but they are a very useful line for us,” Trotz has said about the trio in the past. “They give you impact. When they are playing the right way, they give you a little of that bite that you want. They give you sort of that determination and speed on the puck and sort of an Islander identity,” If there’s a line that’s sort of an identity line, well that’s the best way to describe them better than a fourth line because they give us an identity.”
The fourth line is the engine which makes the Islanders go. Before the bubble, the team struggled mightily at times during the regular season as a result of the line not being totally together. A part of that had to do with Cizikas, Martin and Clutterbuck being sidelined at various times of the year.
Now that they are healthy though, you see why have earned their reputation from around the league. And the Isles are going to need them to keep going pedal to the metal if they want to get back in this series.
After last night, they are now down 2-0. Game three is tomorrow night, and the hope is they can come away with a victory and make this a brand new series. One way they can do that is the fourth line just doing exactly what they did last night and all postseason.
Being the best and making the opponent’s lives miserable.