A line of Parise-Pageau-Wahlstrom could be dynamite for Islanders this season

As we continue to sift through the dog days of August before talk of training camp begins, things continue to remain extremely quiet on the Islanders’ front. But that doesn’t mean it’s never a bad thing to look ahead.

I wrote earlier this week Zach Parise is primed to have a bounce-back season wherever he’s suiting up. It’s all but confirmed he will be an Islander, despite the team still not providing any formal announcement. Once the Isles do make his signing official, things will shift to where he’s used by head coach Barry Trotz in the lineup.

Several projections have Parise slotting in on the third line as the Isles’ top-six, barring another trade or signing, looks all but set with Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal, Kyle Palmieri (also re-signed), Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier. If that is indeed the role he’s given, Parise will most likely be linemates along with J.G. Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom.

Having those three on a line together has the chance to add a big boost to the Islanders’ attack.

Pageau is coming into this year fully healthy after he suffered an injury in the playoffs. He was a force for the Islanders before a broken hand compromised his ability to contribute. Wahlstrom will too be back on the mend after suffering a setback in the Penguins series that kept him out the rest of the postseason. This will be his second season after a solid rookie campaign where he tallied 21 points in 44 games. He is expected to be a full-time regular and one of the Islanders’ more prominent scoring threats with Jordan Eberle departing for Seattle. Parise, as stated already, is motivated to find his game again after having the last four years of his contract bought out by his hometown Minnesota Wild.

Wahlstrom and Pageau already have chemistry going back to last season when the freshman forward was inserted next to the Ottawa native during the Isles’ hot streak in March. They meshed really well together and gave the Islanders a solid one-two punch outside their top-nine. There was an even stronger connection in the postseason before Wahlstrom went down. And they like each other.

“His attitude is top-notch on and off the ice,” Pageau said about Wahlstrom during the year. “He’s doing the right things and paying attention to all the details and that’s how you get better… He’s doing everything possible to be apart of this team.”

“My guy. He’s just awesome,” was how Wahlstrom described Pageau. “He’s a guy I really look up to and I love being around him.”

The addition of Parise though adds another intriguing factor. He will bring some much-needed offense to a line usually considered the checking line. Everyone can point to his disappointing campaign last year — 18 points in 45 games — but he’s still a capable contributor.

Prior to last year, Parise combined for 53 goals from 2018 to 2020.

What also should be acknowledged: Wahlstrom will also have the opportunity to learn from one of the best veterans in the league.

Pageau is a great mentor to have, but Parise held the captaincy during his tenure in New Jersey, where ironically he was under the watch of current Islanders boss Lou Lamoriello. He was also an assistant for many years with the Wild. That kind of experience will be vital for Wahlstrom, who is still has a ton of room to grow.

As a whole, the Pageau-Wahlstrom-Parise trio has all the makings of a very being very effective if formed. Each player brings something different to the table.

The Islanders offense is expected to be better from previous years, and these three can be a big part of it.

 

 

 

 

An ailing J.G. Pageau was a major turning point in the Islanders’ season coming to a close

It’s been a few days now since the dust has settled on the Islanders’ devastating Game 7 defeat to the Lightning. The loss, which ended the team’s spirited run towards a Stanley Cup, now has led the focus to shift to what will be a very busy offseason for the organization.

Still, because the end to the season was so abrupt, it’s not hard to take a moment and look at where things didn’t fall in place for the Isles before they bowed out.

Looking back at the last series, the Islanders were clearly hindered by not having J.G. Pageau fully intact.

Word came out this morning from Islanders’ g.m. Lou Lamoriello that Pageau was ailing from a hand injury and had surgery yesterday.

Pageau, who had most likely suffered that injury in the series-clincher against the Bruins in Game 6 of round two, was a shell of himself against the Bolts. That setback probably got worse when he stretched out for a homerun pass that missed him in the Isles’ Game 2 loss.

“I was a little banged up,” Pageau said during the club’s exit interviews on Sunday. “I think everyone goes through it in the playoffs.”

Having Pageau at less than 100% — everyone is that way in the postseason — made things even more of an uphill battle for the Isles to overcome Tampa Bay, as if it wasn’t going to be a tall task already. The Ottawa native going into the series was one of the few players who had the speed and skill to match what the Lightning brought. That’s one of the reasons the Isles were so successful against Pittsburgh and Boston. Pageau was one of the team’s best players in both series with his three goals and ten assists.

Without that presence, the Islanders had to rely on other forwards whose style don’t match up well to make up for his production. And it didn’t work out well. Pageau’s linemates — Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac — were invisible in the final round and were outmatched heavily at times.

That line ran because of Pageau and it was quite apparent they couldn’t do anything because of how he was compromised. Head coach Barry Trotz had to be feeling Pageau’s absence too. The Islanders’ were at a disadvantage from the get-go. Their offense is successful when they have all four lines going and can wear teams down with their forecheck. Both those parts of their game was a struggle as they were only able to muster up 11 goals in seven games, none of which that came from Pageau’s line. Essentially, the Isles were playing with three forward units against four.

There’s definitely other elements that can be looked at for why the Islanders fell to the Bolts. The absymal power play (1-for-17). Missed chances. Bounces all in Tampa’s favor. But an unhealthy Pageau was a major turning point from the outset.

The Islanders as a whole were affected in every aspect because of it. And it’s why they aren’t playing for a Stanley Cup right now.

It was refreshing to hear Matt Martin speak yesterday about how much the fans played a part of what was a tremendous last go-around for the Coliseum. The Coliseum put on a show for the rest of the league from the relentless chants to the singing of the national anthem before every game in the later rounds.

“It was an amazing thing,” he said on with WFAN’s Boomer and Gio. “It felt like it was getting louder and louder every game. Can’t put words to it.”

Islanders’ own “French Connection” were outstanding in first round series win

The Islanders are moving on to the second round after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in an entertaining six-game series. They had all hands on deck in the clincher last night, scoring five goals and not succumbing to the relentless pressure from the Pens especially when they emerged with a two-goal lead.

A few players can be looked at for the Isles’ opening round performances as the reason why the Isles advanced, but their own French Connection — J.G. Pageau and Anthony Beauvillier — in particular were tremendous from the outset. Pageau and Beauvillier tied for the team lead in points for the first round with seven.

Both were responsible for huge goals and made key plays throughout the series. Pageau’s flutterer past Pens netminder Tristan Jarry in the third period of game one tied the game and helped set in motion the Isles titling the ice the rest of the contest and into overtime before Kyle Palmieri’s game-winner. A majority of his club-leading six assists in the series were secondary helpers, though they all came when the team needed it the most. Pageau was also excellent in how he was able to combat Sidney Crosby and some of Pittsburgh’s other weapons.

“If you look at the two trade deadline acquisitions, last year Pageau, this year Palmieri, they’re veteran guys that are proven,” Barry Trotz said after game one. “When it comes to playoff hockey, in big moments you rely on their experience, their character is exceptional.”

As for Beauvillier, I had written yesterday that he just finds another level in the postseason. Throughout this series — and truly in the last three games — he was exceptional. The argument can be made Beauvillier was the Islanders’ best forward in the opening round. Not many would disagree. Pittsburgh’s defense had no answers for him with his speed and sneaky style.

Beauvillier saved his best for last night with a three-point performance that included getting the game tied early and assisting on Brock’s Nelson two goals. Both which I might add were gorgeous.

“Beau is a great player,” Nelson said of his linemate after the game. “Playoffs is a different animal. It might not always be your night, but we always talk about the depth we have in here. Different guys can get it done in getting us momentum or winning us a game.”

The connection between Pageau and Beauvillier and their ability to thrive in the playoffs isn’t even new.  Actually it began before they were in the bubble last summer when they were linemates. That continued early on in the Isles’ run before the two settled into their second and third line spots respectively. But even on different lines in this past series, the two were dominant in their own different way.

Now with the Boston Bruins posing coming next, the Quebec natives will have their hands full once again. It should be pointed out though that Pageau was great against Boston in the regular season with eight points in eight games. So he could very well be the x-factor going in. That’s something to think about when the two teams most likely start their series this weekend.

But for now, people can reflect on his and Beauvillier’s fantastic showing against the Pens.

Travis Zajac had to wait his turn to get back into the lineup last night, and boy he made most of it. If not for his goal-saving play on Kasperi Kapanen late in the first period, the Islanders don’t get to the end of the first period tied. His crucial faceoff win set the stage for Ryan Pulock’s rocket which turned out to be the game-winner and made it two goals in 13 seconds to give Isles the lead.

Said Zajac after the win: “I’m here to help any way I can and be a part of it any way I can. Like everyone else, when my name is called you have to go in and do the right things and play winning hockey, control what you can control.”

J.G. Pageau’s recent hot streak a big boost for the Islanders

If you’ve watched the Islanders of late, there have been a number of things that have contributed to their strong play. They’re getting big performances from up and down the lineup, including third-line center J.G. Pageau.

Last night’s sound 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres made it seven straight games with a point for Barry Trotz’s crew. And it was Pageau, whom the Isles saw first hand in the bubble postseason just how effective he can be when his game is on, who extended his goal-scoring streak to three games. His snipejob over Sabres’ netminder Linus Ullmark off the rush showed his confidence looks restored after a soft start to the season.

“I think he’s playing with a little bit of edge to him, Trotz said in the post game. “He has that edge back… He has that game rolling. He’s a very important player for any coach in this league, I’m just telling you… You can slot him anywhere… he finds a way to get it done for you so he’s very important with our bench.”

The last three games Pageau is proving Trotz’s theory right. His four points over this recent stretch — all at crucial junctures of each game — leave him with eight points in 14 games and have catapulted him up to third on the team in goals and overall points. Those numbers come down to Pageau showing consistency, which was one of the major things expected of the 28-year-old coming into his first full season with the Isles.

That was his MO when the Islanders dealt for him at last year’s trade deadline from Ottawa.

It wasn’t there early on the first month of this shortened campaign — some of that due to the revolving door of wingers on Pageau’s line — but he’s found it, even if it’s taken a little bit longer this year than some may like. The fact too his production has come when the Islanders are starting to really find their game is both a boost and can be scary for the opposition.

“Pager is a guy you win with,” Trotz also acknowledged. “He gets it done when it matters most.”

 

With how the Islanders are playing, seeing Pageau continue to thrive will really put things in full gear as the season goes on.

His recent play indicates that. And it’s leading to what means most…winning.

We’re at a point now where it seems Mathew Barzal basically embarrasses at least one player on the opposition each game now.

His victim last night was Sabres d-man Matt Irwin.

Irwin’s busted ankles along with another point for #13 — extending his point streak to nine games — was all in a night’s work.

We’re used to seeing the Isles put on defensive clinics under Barry Trotz’s watch. But what they did last night was astonishing.

The Islanders allowed Buffalo zero (YES ZERO) shots in the third period last night.

Per Eric Hornick, It marked the first time in franchise history they accomplished such a feat.

J.G. Pageau showing again how much he loves being with the Islanders

J.G. Pageau really loves being a part of the Islanders.

He hasn’t been afraid to show it either.

Throughout the offseason — following the team’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals — Pageau has been quite active talking about his time with the organization and what its been like from when the Isles traded for him at last season’s trade deadline.

On Wednesday he was a guest on a La Poche Bleue, a French-Canadian hockey podcast, and revealed how quickly things transpired when Islanders’ g.m. Lou Lamoriello made the deal for him.

In the end, the transaction happened and it was the right thing to do. Pageau didn’t come out of it sour, but it was the total surprise to see how much the Islanders wanted it. As he explains, Lou Lamoriello submitted an offer on the table and Pageau immediately accepted it. There were therefore no negotiations between the Islanders and Pageau regarding his contract extension. The Islanders offered him $5 million by starting the discussion. It was a yes. – English translation courtesy of Toutsurlehockey.com

So as Pageau stated above, he was taken aback by how much the organization wanted him and wanted to get him signed long-term.

Oddly enough, the Ottawa native’s take on situation was the complete opposite in the eyes of Islander fans.

Supporters of the team had clamored for someone to fill the third-line center slot all year after it had become a black hole following Valtteri Filppula’s departure in the offseason. Pageau’s name was the most that came up. He became a hot button because it was established he was going to be available and that he fit the mold of the kind of player the Islanders were looking to add.

We all know what unfolded in the aftermath of Pageau’s addition — he’s been a perfect fit. But the fact that there wasn’t even a discussion about a contract extension speaks volumes about the confidence he had joining the team and vice versa.

The 27-year-old also went on to talk about the admiration he has for the team’s fourth line, which features Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck.

That trio was dominant for the Islanders in the postseason, and Pageau said it was “beautiful” watching them when they would start to rev it up against the opposition. He was particularly amazed by the dose of energy they would bring when scrums would ensue. That the Isles didn’t get to experience the thrill of their great run playing at Nassau Coliseum — and not getting to see how much the fourth line sends the place into into a frenzy — was another aspect  Pageau said he regrets not being able to experience.

Pageau is set to be an Islander for a long time having signed for the next six years. Still, with how he describes that dynamic of the team, it shows just how much he enjoys being in blue and orange.

He loves it here.

Already a fan favorite, Pageau continues to say the right things while also showing the same enthusiasm that the organization has built in the past two years.

You can’t really ask for much more love than that.

 

 

J.G. Pageau believes Islanders can “win year after year”

J.G. Pageau believes the New York Islanders are in a place where they have the chance to win with each passing season.

Pageau, who signed a six-year extension with the organization after the Isles g.m. Lou Lamoriello traded for him at the trade deadline back in late February, told an Ottawa newspaper there are reasons for it while touching on several other topics.

“The whole team should look the same over the next few years and for fans and for the team, it’s encouraging to have come this far,” the 27-year-old said to leDroit. “We have a team that has a chance to win year after year.”

Pageau’s feeling about the Islanders comes after the team made it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 27 years. They were ousted in six games by the Cup winners — the Tampa Bay Lightning — who actually won it all last night over the Dallas Stars.

“I can’t wait to start training again,” Pageau added. “The end of the season that we had, it makes me hungry to continue to work hard. I can’t wait to have my next chance to win the cup with this team, ”he said.

 

The Ottawa native has been in this position before too when it comes to seeing a bright future for his club after they almost reached the pinnacle. Pageau was a member of the 2017 Ottawa Senators who went on a wonderful run that ended with a game seven loss in the Conference Final to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins; that team was dismantled by g.m. Pierre Dorion after that run. Pageau’s current club is in a much different spot. They are still very much at the beginning of their window being open even with most of the organization’s core all in their late-20s and early-30s.

But then there’s what the Isles do have. Which is, players still in their early 20s — Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, Devon Toews, etc. — who have now been together for almost three years now while also gaining huge experience from the last two years with long playoff runs. A 25-year-old goalie in Ilya Sorokin — who was the best goaltender not on this side of the pond now signed for next season — and is expected to be the franchise’s future in goal. Some top prospects coming soon (Oliver Wahlstrom, Kieffer Bellows) and a defensive system which has made the team improve by a mile the last two seasons. Add in the GM of the Year in Lamoriello, arguably the best coach in the NHL, Barry Trotz, and the culture those two have instilled in the franchise since they arrived, and it’s easy to spot why Pageau feels so highly about the team’s future.

Now, Lamoriello does some work to do this offseason to validate what Pageau sees. This means finding a way to add cap space — the team only has just over $8 million to work with — while trying to add a quintessential piece or two to the puzzle. He too has to get the team’s most important RFAs, Barzal, Pulock and Toews, all signed. If he can maneuver his way through all that, there’s no doubt the Isles will be ready to roll come time puck drops in late December or early January.

Still, the enthusiasm oozing out of Pageau, already a fan-favorite, shouldn’t be taken lightly.

The Islanders’ franchise has taken monumental steps in the last couple of years. And, it’s only going to continue to get better on and off the ice. Pageau is, and has already been, a major part of that. He believes this team can be a consistent winner.

They are on the right path to do it too.

 

 

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.

J.G. Pageau Gives Islanders and Their Fans a Glimpse of Future with Memorable Debut

J.G. Pageau, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders didn’t come away with a victory last night. What they did come away with, was a look at what could be on display for the future.

J.G. Pageau, the newest Islander after he was acquired Monday morning from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for three future draft picks and then signed shortly thereafter to a six-year, $30-million contract, starred in one of the most memorable debuts for the team in recent memory.

“He’s as advertised,” head coach Barry Trotz said about Pageau to reporters following the game.

Pageau started the game on the third line with Michael Dal Colle and Josh Bailey, and his presence could immediately be felt. That trio was one of the best all night for the Isles until all hell broke loose.

Late in the second period right after he recorded his first goal — one that helped the Isles finally solve Rangers goalie Alexander Georgiev after they’d been buzzing all night — Pageau sent a pass to Dal Colle who was caught with his head down, thus taking a ferocious hit up high from Rangers d-man Jacob Trouba. Pageau then went right after Trouba, standing up for his teammate. In that one moment, he endeared himself to his teammates and the hearts of the fans who jam-packed Nassau Coliseum.

https://twitter.com/rtaub_/status/1232485772927758336?s=21

“He’s standing up for teammates right away,” teammate Brock Nelson said. “He hasn’t been here long, but guys have respected him before, he’s going to fit right in.”

Pageau himself also knew he had to something for his new club.

“I want to prove that I want to be part of the family and be part of that group,” he said about the incident. “You saw Bails dropped his gloves right away too. I think it just shows how guys care for one another here.”

Pageau received a five-minute major, ten-minute misconduct and two-minute instigator penalty for his response to Dal Colle going down. But that didn’t matter. The fans still serenaded him with “Pageau, Pageau, Pageau!” chants ala the “Ole” chants he would receive when he played in Ottawa.

As the Islanders rallied to force overtime without Pageau, Dal Colle and d-man Andy Greene — who went shoulder first into the boards in the first period — Pageau was set to come back out for the extra session. He wouldn’t get his chance as the Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad would win the game on a booming slapper that beat Isles goalie Semyon Varlamov just 28 seconds into overtime.

Even with the stinging defeat, Pageau’s night couldn’t have been a better introduction. He was all over the ice, winning face-offs, engaged in the play and showed his physical nature despite his 5’10 frame.

“He made a great first impression on all of us,” veteran Josh Bailey said. “We already knew what he could bring to the table, but I think our fans for sure got a glimpse of it tonight.”

“Here’s a player, we wanted him, we got him for the next six years. He’s impactful, you see how he changes our team in so many ways. You saw how he stepped up. What a great pickup by Lou (Lamoriello). The picks (we gave up in the trade) are nothing, I can tell you that — a lot of picks never play. You’ve got a solid guy who fits right in the hockey team. You saw the character, how he plays. Glad he’s on our side,“ Trotz added.

Looking beyond last night, no one knows how the next six years will play out for Pageau and the Isles. But on his first night in orange and blue, he showed a glimpse of what he will mean to the organization moving forward.