Brock Nelson has rebounded nicely for the Islanders after slow start to season

If you’ve watched the Islanders from their first few weeks of the season and what has transpired since up until the present day, you would say it’s been a tale of two seasons.

Forward Brock Nelson has followed the same path.

The Warroad, MN native struggled mightily out of the gate, recording just three points in the first nine games of the season. He looked out of sync at both ends of the ice, as did his linemates who made up the second line. It felt as if Nelson, the Isles’ most consistent forward the previous two seasons, needed a bit of a reset to get himself going. Then came the pause in the team’s season the first week of February, as a result of the Buffalo Sabres dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak; the Islanders were supposed to play Buffalo twice that week.

That break, when it’s all said and done, might have been what turned the Isles’ season around. Furthermore, it might have also been a blessing in disguise for Nelson. The first game back against Pittsburgh, he recorded an assist and had his strongest performance of the season playing on a newly-formed line with Jordan Eberle and Michael Dal Colle.

Following that game, Nelson has recorded 18 points in 28 games. In years past, those kinds of numbers might seem like he’s falling short of expectations because Nelson was depended on to produce at a higher rate. But for how the Isles are currently constructed — now become a well-balanced attack, even with the absence of captain Anders Lee — those a pretty solid numbers.

Nelson’s 13 goals have him in a three-way tie for the team lead with Eberle and Mathew Barzal. Six of those redlights too have come on the power play, a department where both Nelson and the Islanders have made huge strides. He also still has a shot at a third consecutive 20-goal season with 18 games left to play.

What’s also been noticeable has been Nelson’s defensive improvement, perfectly exhibited by his tremendous backcheck to stop a breakaway for Philadelphia’s Joel Farabee last game.

“I have a lot of trust in Nellie’s game over the course of time that I’ve been here,” head coach Barry Trotz noted before the Islanders’ most recent shootout victory Saturday over the Flyers. “And when his line with him and Bails have been together and Beau is over there, that line has given us really good minutes. And when they don’t, it’s noticeable. It’s noticeable to our group. It’s not noticeable to the production and success of the team.”

The Islanders have given Nelson the “A” with Lee now out, and he’s run with it so far. They are going to need his leadership and sound play as they continue to be in a dogfight for the top spot in the MassMutual East Division.

A few weeks into this truncated season, it looked as if Nelson was lost and a step behind. That seems like an afterthought now. He’s recovered quite well.

And with the postseason on the horizon, that is huge for not just him but for where the Isles hope they will be going.

Hard to believe Mathew Barzal hadn’t been named the league’s “First Star of The Week” in his four-year career up until he received the honor yesterday. Barzal has had weeks and runs just like he did last week — seven points in three games, including a five-point explosion against the Capitals last Thursday — but somehow never got top billing.

This will probably be the first of many top star of the week honors Barzal will attain during his career.

Will be great to see one of the OGs back at the Coliseum starting Tuesday. Organist Paul Cartier will make his long-anticipated return after his battle with COVID-19 months ago.

 

 

The Islanders have two Top 100 players, but should there be more?

When the Islanders open their regular season Thursday night, they will have two of the best players in the league taking the ice for them, Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock.

The Athletic NHL released its Top 100 Players tier list for the 2021 season yesterday and it was Barzal and Pulock who made it for the organization. Barzal was placed in the Tier 3 group under the “All-Star” umbrella while Pulock finds himself in the fourth tier for players who are at the “Top of the lineup”.

The newly extended Barzal — he and the Isles agreed to a new three-year deal over the weekend — many on the panel believe he hasn’t reached “franchise player” worthy level just yet.  “Mathew Barzal regarded as highly as he should be by the model, which doesn’t see just how involved he is in transition. The franchise-player tier is a tough sell for now, with the net results including his production being great but not quite elite,” was how he was described at the moment.

The argument about Barzal’s production is valid. Take out his Calder Trophy winning season in 2017-18 where he led the team with 85 points, and Barzal has only tallied 122 points  and 37 goals. Now it’s true, those numbers probably take a hit because of the defense-first mentality employed by head coach Barry Trotz. But Barzal is now being paid as an elite player, so his production needs to reflect that.

This is not lost on him too. He said on Saturday after signing the deal that “consistency” was going to be the most important thing with him being paid $7M a year over the next three seasons

Pulock making the list comes as quite the welcome surprise.

He’s definitely emerged as the Isles’ best and most reliable defenseman outside of his d-partner, Adam Pelech. Pulock’s numbers at both ends of the ice have continued to improve each year, but he hasn’t launched himself towards the upper echelon of d-men in the league.

This season could change that. He was was rewarded with a new two-year, 10M contract back in November and is considered to be on the rise. For right now, he’s earned the title of becoming a dominant player.

So, with two of the Islanders most prominent players listed, the question needs to be asked: should there have been more?

Pelech and forward Brock Nelson deserve some consideration.

You could make the argument that Pelech should have made the list ahead of a guy like Jake Muzzin who was in the final tier as a 4C.

Pelech has evolved into one of the top defensive d-man in the over the last two seasons and remains criminally underrated. The offensive production isn’t on the same level of Pulock, but you’d have a hard time finding a guy whose so instrumental to their team’s success. Last season and the playoffs were perfect examples.

As for Nelson, there’s no question he is the Isles’ second-best forward behind Barzal. His level of play has reached incredible heights under Trotz — 25+ goals and 50 or more points the past two seasons — and it doesn’t look like he’ll be slowing down anytime soon.

One other name who could find himself on the list soon is Anthony Beauvillier.

His postseason performance opened up a lot of eyes and now he’s expected to become an elite player this season.

Some might want to pull out there hair, but the cap manipulation Isles g.m. Lou Lamoriello has been able to pull off is sorcery. Having to pay Andy Greene and Matt Martin — both recently re-signed — a combined $2.2M for this year is a nod to his genius.

Yes, Greene’s performance bonuses if he reaches them can have a negative effect on the cap in the summer, but Lou still deserves credit for getting him to sign below what he might have gotten on the open market.

Josh Ho-Sang cleared waivers to no ones surprise. Now it’s on the team whether or not they want him in Bridgeport according to the New York Post’s Mollie Walker. Ho-Sang intends to be there and hopefully the team gives him that chance.

The Coliseum is ready for its final, final go around. A happy and sad image at the same time.

Brock Nelson’s next evolution as an Islander: become a 30-goal scorer

New York Islanders, Brock Nelson

Over the last two seasons, the New York Islanders have done an excellent job evolving as a team. There’s been individuals who have also stepped up.

One of them who has played a major role is Brock Nelson.

Nelson has become everything the organization and their fans could have envisioned since he was drafted a decade ago under the Lou Lamoriello-Barry Trotz regime. Over that period, the 29-year-old has also turned into one of the game’s most underrated two-way centers slotting in behind first-line center Mathew Barzal. Scoring hasn’t been the strongest suit for the Isles recently as the organizational philosophy has shifted to sacrificing more defense for offense. But Nelson has been one of the few bright spots.

Nelson has led the Isles in goals back-to-back seasons with 25 and 26. His postseason in the club’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals too was nothing short of excellent — 18 points in 22 games. If it wasn’t for the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc back in March, Nelson might have finally eclipsed the 30-goal plateau.

It’s hard to believe, but Nelson has yet to reach that feat. He’s almost gotten there over his seven years in the NHL, the closest being the 26 tucks he recorded last season and in 2015-16. That’s why, whenever next season does start, Nelson’s next step as a player should be to reach 30 tucks.

The Islanders haven’t had a 30-goal scorer since captain Anders Lee in the 2017-18 campaign. Lee actually ended that season with 40 tucks. it would be a big help if Nelson can get to that number. The Isles are always searching for more production internally, and who better to be that guy than Nelson. Look, he doesn’t have 40-goal potential — it’d be wonderful if he did — but 30 goals is definitely attainable for Nelson with the offensive capabilities he possesses.

Getting to that number should be a realistic possibility too based on recency bias. Nelson’s totals have continued to improve with each passing season. And to an even further degree, the Warroad, MN native has taken a larger role as one of the team’s main forwards to help drive the offense with each passing year.

Take it from this perspective too.

If the Islanders do eventually sign Mathew Barzal to a new deal — they were able to lock up d-man Ryan Pulock to one yesterday — but can’t add another offensive piece, carrying some of that goal-scoring load will fall back on Nelson. That responsibility will also be on Lee, Anthony Beauvillier, Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey.

Nelson though…is the key.

He brings the most skill and goal-scoring prowess out of that bunch side from maybe Eberle.

Now in his prime, Nelson has reached a point where scoring a certain amount of goals should be a regularity. In this case, the number is 30, which he’s yet to reach.

That’s the next goal for him, pardon the pun.

Nelson’s transformed into a good Islander, one of the most consistent too. Hitting 30 goals this coming season though is that next step in his evolution.

New York Islanders: Team Awards Part 1 (Hart Trophy)

New York Islanders, Brock Nelson

The New York Islanders‘ season is officially over. And as sad as it is to hear that for Isles fans, the team took a huge leap this year. There aren’t questions on if the team can make a deep run, but the question is how far now. The Hart trophy is the trophy given to the MVP of the NHL. There is no one on the team who was in contention for the award, but team awards still exist. I will include playoff performance here as well. So, without further introduction, let’s see the winner and runner-ups of the Hart Trophy for the Isles.

Brock Nelson

Brock Nelson was the best player on the Islanders this year, so he takes home the Hart trophy. He finished on 5 points behind Barzal in the regular season. Nelson possesses the best shot on the team by far, and he’s arguably the best two-way forward as well. Nelson’s forechecking is absolutely phenomenal, it’s what makes the 2nd line so dangerous. His playoff play wasn’t superb, but scoring isn’t everything. Nelson is the best shooter, 2nd best faceoff guy, a great penalty killer, and one of the most dangerous weapons the Isles have.

Mat Barzal

I only have to say this once, but when Mat Barzal learns to shoot more, he will win the Art Ross trophy year after year after year. Barzal is outright deadly when he shoots; the problem is, it’s sporadic. Barzal had to be triple-teamed against the Lightning, and still, he got by every one. He’s the best passer in the NHL. He’s one of the fastest skaters in the NHL. The best part is, he’s only 23. The Islanders have a gem in their hands who can become one of the very best very soon.

Anthony Beauvillier

There was a point in the offseason where I said, “there’s no reason for Beau to get resigned; he’s not going to develop soon enough.” Wow, did he prove me wrong. Beauvillier always was the guy for the Islanders all throughout the season. His forechecking is unmatched by anyone. He’s the 2nd fastest player on the team. Beau’s shot has improved vastly; it used to all be just five-hole shots, now he can pick his corners. He’s insanely smart with the puck and creative off the puck. Beau produced tons of memorable moments for the Isles, especially in the playoffs; it’ll be awesome to see him continue to grow.

New York Islanders: 3 Stars of the Game 3 Win

Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders have made the Eastern Conference Finals a real series. Game 3 was easily one of the most entertaining games of the 2020 playoffs. The Islanders played their hearts out, and it shows. A mix of desperation and frustration led them to clutch out the win. There were three stars that led the Islanders to victory last night. Their efforts did not go unrecognized, and honestly, I believe three stars are too little to show how good the Isles played last night. But, without further ado, here are the three stars of the night.

Semyon Varlamov

Amazing is almost an insult to how Semyon Varlamov played last night. Varly single handily kept the Islanders’ hopes alive. There were 3 or 4 sequences from the Lightning last night that should’ve been goals, but Varlamov stood on his head. I don’t know what changed for Varlamov from the regular season to the playoffs, but he’s just been fantastic. Even though he did let in 3 goals, there was a possibility it could’ve been 6. The Isles fans are 110% behind their outstanding goalie.

The 4th line

I have to include the entire 4th line here because, oh my god, what a game they played. J.G. Pageau was acting like a goon out there, and he’s a foot shorter than every other player. Not only did Pageau play like an enforcer, but he got an assist on the beautiful Adam Pelech goal and scored the empty-net goal. Don’t forget about the line clearing brawl at the end of the game. Victor Hedman had to save Kucherov from Pageau. Matt Martin continued his hot streak and played amazing defense. Great forechecking as well, as always, and he clocked Barclay Goodrow in the back of the head six times. Sydney Martin has got to be proud of her husband. Also, can’t forget about Cal Clutterbuck sniping Vasilevskiy to open up the scoring. 4th line looked amazing even without Casey Cizikas playing.

The “B” line

When the “B” line gets hot, it’s normally “goodnight Jim Kite.” Josh Bailey had two assists last night as he continues his quest for the Conn Smythe. Anthony Beauvillier scored last night on a beautiful play from Brock Nelson. Not only that, but Beauvillier assisted Nelson’s game-winning goal with a beautiful turn around pass. Brocktober came early Isles fans. Brock Nelson was in prime form last night and would win the game for the Isles. The second line continues to be dangerous.

Honorable Mention

Also, as an honorable mention, what a game for Adam Pelech. Pelech scored his first career playoff goal, so congratulations to him. It was a total snipe, and it got all the Islanders fans excited. Especially the #pelechposse created by Jake Basile (a.k.a. @BathtubJake on Instagram). Pelech was thumping too, a bunch of big hits for the big man. Great game from a shutdown defenseman.

New York Islanders: 3 Key Players to Game 4’s Win

Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders

As New York Islanders‘ head coach Barry Trotz said, “that was the worst game that we’ve played to this point in the playoffs.” I don’t think the Islanders played terrible last night, but they weren’t good. Nevertheless, the Islanders take a 3-1 series lead. And for the first time in 27 years, the Islanders could be headed to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Islanders are clicking right now, and it’s a scary sight for all other teams. There were three key players to last night’s win, and they deserve to be recognized for their efforts.

Thomas Greiss

This was possibly Thomas Greiss’ last game as an Islander. Greiss gave it his all, as he made 36 saves on 38 shots. Greiss made some of the hardest saves look insanely easy. The Islanders are unbeatable when their goalies are clicking. Greiss didn’t make any mistakes last night. As Thomas Greiss said, “it’s not rocket science out there, just stop the puck.” Greiss gets the first star of the night for sure. If this is his last game, thank you, Greisser, for everything.

Brock Nelson

Who knew it could be Brocktober in Paugaust? Brock Nelson finally broke his cold streak and put up two goals last night. This is only the beginning of his hot streak; once Brock gets on a roll, he’s impossible to stop. Nelson possesses the best shot on the team by far. When he’s in front of the net with no one around him, you can bet on Nelson burying it top corner. The Islanders are dangerous even when Nelson wasn’t clicking; what’s going to happen to the league when he clicks?

Scott Mayfield

I’ve said it once, I will say it again; Scott Mayfield won the Islanders the game last night. Mayfield basically said, “okay, I’ve had it, this game is going to be over because I want it to be, I’m tying the puck up, outmuscle me.” And no one was able to outmuscle Mayfield at all. For the last 18 seconds, Mayfield kept the puck on the boards. Mayfield has a purpose, and he fulfilled it. Mayfield also got on the scorer’s sheet last night with an assist.

Honorable Mentions

Josh Bailey has to be mentioned as one of the top players. Bailey is now point per game in the playoffs. He is also tied for 4th in the NHL in assists during the playoffs. Bailey is the anchor of the B-B-B line and creates offense for everyone around him. Bailey has been criticized for too long; hopefully, now the criticisms will stop. JG Pageau deserves a mention as well because he’s the do it all guy. Lou Lamoriello should get a parade through the streets of Long Island for that trade. Pageau is tied for 3rd in playoff goals this season. How many playoff goals does that late first-round pick have again?

Conclusion

The Islanders are one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals. Soak it in Isles fans, the day you’ve dreamt about is almost here. Nine more wins and you’re lifting the Stanley Cup. The Islanders play the Flyers on Tuesday at 7 pm ET.

Islanders’ forward Brock Nelson believes team can ‘make a run’

New York Islanders, Brock Nelson

The No. 7 seed New York Islanders (35-23-10, .588 points percentage) will face off against the No. 10 seed Panthers (35-26-8, .565) in the qualifiers in Eastern Conference play.

The Islanders previously played the Florida Panthers this season and won all three games. Despite their minor streak of victories, forward Brock Nelson doesn’t believe they have an advantage over their seeded opponent.

The two teams will face off in a best-of-five series, as the winner will qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs and the loser will have a chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL draft.

Nelson remains motivated but humble, entering the qualifying rounds with a level head

“I don’t think you can use that as an advantage or a disadvantage,” Nelson told “MSG 150 At Home” on July 3. “I think everybody now is going in with the opportunity and the mindset that they have a chance and they’re given a shot If you’re the 1 seed through the 12 seed, everybody’s got that same belief that they can make a run, especially in a time like this where you go into a best-of-5, anything can happen.

“You get a hot goalie right away, you can kind of run away with that, feed off that. The team that’s able to get that and use that to their advantage mentally is going to have quite a big gap in terms of advantages.”

With the NHL expected to return to play in mid-July, the projected start date of the elimination rounds could be weeks if not months away. Just getting practice underway would be a significant step forward for the Islanders and every other NHL squad. The additional time to get back into playing form is welcomed, which Nelson stated in his interview.

“It will kind of be a feeling out once you get back,” Nelson said. “But guys had a little bit of time to kind of get their legs back and hopefully kind of gear up. Obviously, the intensity is going to be higher right away getting ready for the playoffs, so you kind of have to find a way to kick it into gear. You can’t have any waits or delay. Best-of-5, anything can happen, so you have to come home ready to go.