Josh Bailey deserved to see things through with the Islanders

The expansion draft has come and gone, and the Islanders didn’t come out of it too worse for the wear.

Jordan Eberle is no longer an Islander after he wound up being the odd man out.  He was selected by the Kraken after multiple reports surfaced yesterday morning he was their pick.

The loss of him will sting. The Isles are now down a top-six forward and one of their more valuable skill players.

Eberle did record 169 points in 272 games for the organization — add on to that 34 points in the postseason — and formed fantastic chemistry with star forward Mathew Barzal. The two had been linked together since Barzal’s rookie season when they were paired on the first line following the 31-year-old being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers in the offseason in exchange for Ryan Strome.

Eberle being taken did come as a bit of a surprise. There was chatter and speculation — and let me tell you there was plenty among the pundits — leading up to the draft with Kraken plucking Josh Bailey instead of him. Both forwards were left off the  Islanders’ protected list on Sunday, with Bailey being a bigger shocker than Eberle.

It was a bit of a gamble on g.m. Lou Lamoriello’s part which obviously paid off, albeit a scary one. Reports came out today that the Kraken were mulling hard between whether to choose Bailey over Eberle and vice versa.

Things might get a lot clearer about whether Lamoriello and Seattle g.m. Ron Francis had agreed to a side deal to maybe steer the Kraken away from Bailey once the roster freeze is over this afternoon.

But the fact of the matter remains, Bailey is still an Islander. And there’s no question, he deserved to still be here if and when the Islanders finally win it all.

I shouldn’t have to tell you how much losing Bailey would have been a slap in the face to not just the player, but the team. Nothing against Eberle, but Bailey’s contributions to the franchise warrant him being here for the long-haul. And they go beyond the ice.

Bailey has been in blue and orange for the past 13 years — he was drafted 9th overall back in 2008 — and has stuck with the organization through all the trials and tribulations. He’s never complained. Never thrown his teammates under the bus. And always lead by example. It’s a reason he wears an “A” on his sweater.

Even when he had a chance to test free agency back in 2018, Bailey took a team-friendly deal to keep him with organization for six more season.

Outside of captain Anders Lee, there might not be a more-respected player in the Islanders’ dressing room the past few years. The 31-year-old might be soft-spoken, but he’s always let his play speak for him. Ask head coach Barry Trotz, who over time has trusted Bailey in any situation. Beyond that, the playoffs have become his time to shine. No Islander forward has had more points in the postseason (39) than Bailey the past three years.

“With Bails, it’s all IQ,” Trotz has said in the past in his praise of the veteran forward. “He’s a cerebral player. He makes really intelligent reads and they’ll be some things, they’re more subtle. You’ve got to watch him closely. If you’re just looking for the wow factor, you probably don’t see that in Josh. What you do see is all the subtleties and sort of the thinking man’s player.”

Losing Bailey would have taken a large chunk out of what has turned the Islanders into the competitive squad they have become. Replacing him would have been a difficult task. Then think about filling that hole with how close the Isles are to within a title. That said, Bailey has earned the right to stick with the franchise till the end and see it all culminate in a Stanley Cup.

Seeing a teammate leave is never an easy thing. It’s a sad day for all involved. Just ask Mathew Barzal.

Barzal, Jordan Eberle’s fellow “Gary” — an inside joke the two teammates came up with that fans caught on to — bid farewell to him on social media in a heartfelt post.

One quirky but important part the Islanders game five win

When historians look back on the Islanders’ incredible game five win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, they will be quick to point out the turning points that shifted the contest. Most of them will probably be the ten-bell stops by goalie Ilya Sorokin.

But there’s another moment that can’t go unnoticed.

Jordan Eberle’s goal midway through the third period not only was the Isles to first shot on net of the period but helped them tie the game and eventually set forth the battle that would take place the rest of regulation and in overtime.

“Once we scored that [third period] goal [from Eberle], I felt pretty good about our team,” head coach Bary Trotz said following the win. “It was one of those nights, where when we got it tied up and it went to overtime I was thinking that this was going to be our night.”

Eberle’s goal Monday night was his second of the series; he scored the Islanders’ fourth goal on Saturday in their 4-1 win in game four. Last night’s game-tying tally also marked sixth against the Penguins in the postseason dating back to 2019. Oddly enough, that little stat means a little more this morning.
The Islanders are a perfect 6-0 against Pittsburgh in the playoffs when Eberle records a goal. They are 1-2 when he doesn’t. Four of those victories came when the Isles swept those same Pens two years ago in the first round.

“Ebs scored a big one. A nice big shot and buried it,” J.G. Pageau said in the postgame which drew a bit of smirk from Eberle knowing he had fanned on his first attempt but converted on the second.
Eberle had a slow start to the series the first three games, as did his linemate Mathew Barzal. In the last couple game though, he’s really come on strong and has played a key role in the Islanders having a chance to move on to round two with a win tomorrow night. His two tallies in this series have been extremely crucial, last night being the bigger of the two.
The Islanders seem to come out on the better side of things when Eberle finds the back of the net, especially when the opponent is has a penguin on its sweater. With the potential to clinch the series, he scoring tomorrow night could very well put the nail in Pittsburgh’s coffin.
Josh Bailey’s game-winning goal last night was his second in his Islander career. But as usual, he was calm, cool and collected when asked about how big a goal it was for him by reporters after a game. Leave it to his wife Megan to elicit the emotion we had hoped to get out of him. FYI, it was a great celebration.

Hats off to Ilya Sorokin for his miraculous performance in game five. The rookie netminder was the only reason up until overtime the Islanders had even the slightest chance of winning. His performance was reminiscent of another Islanders’ goaltender in a pivotal postseason game, Thomas Greiss.
Back in 2016, Greiss turned away 47 of 48 Panthers shots — including a huge penalty shot save in OT against Aleksander Barkov — in the Isles’ game five OT win in that first-round series.
Sorokin last night stopped 48 of the 50 shots the Penguins threw his way, 19 of which came in the second period when the Islanders were outshot mercifully 20-4.

New York Islanders: Jordan Eberle must have a bounce-back season

New York islanders, Jordan Eberle

New York Islanders‘ forward Jordan Eberle had a down year in 2019. Another disappointing season after acquiring the top 6 forward. The Islanders traded for Eberle back in 2017, sending Ryan Strome back the other way.

For the first couple of years, this looked like one of the best trades of the decade for the Isles. Eberle has been slowly declining throughout his time on the Island. In his first year, he recorded 59 points, then 37 points, then 40 points. Eberle is paid a top 6 forward but doesn’t put up the numbers to back it up. Jordan Eberle must improve in these 2 categories to make sure he doesn’t go to Seattle.

Off the Puck Skating

How can you get open without moving your feet? Jordan Eberle occasionally forgets this idea and stands flat-footed in the offensive zone. I don’t know why he does this, though. I mean, his best goals are when he’s moving towards the net. His top-shelf backhand is always set up by him, slashing towards the net.

Once Eberle gets his feet moving, it creates amazing opportunities for the first line. Remember, the first line is geared towards Barzal dishing to Eberle, Ebs shooting, and Lee tapping in the rebound. That’s the first line’s dynamic, but this doesn’t work if Eberle doesn’t move his feet.

Cashing-In Opportunities

Jordan Eberle could’ve won game 6 against the Flyers maybe 7 times. One of his shots was a wide-open tap in to win the series, and he still missed the net. I don’t care about his goal in game 5 against the Lightning, he needs to convert on 80% of his chances. Eberle gets the best opportunities on the team, and yet he never leads the Islanders in goals. It’s almost like he chokes up and overthinks his shot. Eberle needs to stop thinking and start getting the puck on the net. If he can do this, he can stay for another year or two.

New York Islanders: 3 Stars of Game 5

New York Islanders, Anders Lee

The New York Islanders are not going home just yet. The Islanders pull off a double-overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning to force a game 6. I know I say this often, but this was possibly the most exciting game in 27 years for the Islanders. Being on the brink of elimination and facing a powerhouse team, the odds were all against the Isles. Somehow, someway the Islanders were able to win and stay in the bubble. There were three stars in yesterday’s win against the Lightning. This team needed to deliver, and that’s precisely what they did.

Semyon Varlamov

Semyon Varlamov stood on his head last night and propelled the Isles to a victory. Varlamov stopped 36 shots of the 37 that came his way. Varly’s best save came in the first overtime when Nikita Kucherov shot a wrister from above the left faceoff circle. Scott Mayfield was screening Varlamov unintentionally, and somehow Varly was able to go from left to right quick enough to stop the puck. Varlamov’s night was highlighted with his celebration slide into the pile-up around Jordan Eberle. If Varlamov continues to play like he did last night, the Isles will be hard to put away.

Jordan Eberle

I mean, finally, Jordan Eberle decided to actually play. Last year, Eberle was a top playoff performer as the Isles swept the Penguins in the first round. Eberle makes this list merely because of his game-winning goal. “The goal heard around the Island” is what I like to call it. The Islanders haven’t perfect at all during overtime in the bubble. But, that luck was bound to change. Eberle buried one on Vasy glove side and forces game 6.

Anders Lee

The Islanders’ captain did not want to leave Edmonton, and his play showed that. Anders Lee gave 110% last night, and the team followed. Anders Lee did the little things correctly, like marking his man, being physical down low, and winning the 1v1 battles. He also blocked a shot from the point after giving his stick to defenseman Scott Mayfield. 99 mph shot right to his knee. Eventually, all his hard work would pay off for him and his team as the Islanders got a 2v1. Lee outskated Sergachev and got a beautiful cross-crease pass to Eberle; the rest is history.

Conclusion

The Islanders are one win away from pushing a game 7. If the Isles force a game 7, well, it’s anyone’s series. The Islanders have all the momentum in the world, and the Lightning have a lot of doubt.

New York Islanders: 1 Trade Option for Jordan Eberle

New York islanders, Jordan Eberle

New York Islanders‘ forward Jordan Eberle has disappeared in the playoffs as of late. Well, he does more for the opposing teams than he does for the Isles. Once again, Jordan Eberle will most likely be traded due to his playoff play, or lack thereof. There’s a slight problem, Eberle does have a no-trade clause in his contract. But, this ends next year, and then he only has a 16 team no-trade list clause. Eberle might not have the best trade value due to his contract, but there’s a place for everyone. There is one destination I believe that would trade for Jordan Eberle.

Seattle Kraken

The Islanders roster is going to take a hit with another expansion team joining the fray. But, that doesn’t mean the Isles can’t fleece the situation as they did with Vegas. I believe the Islanders will protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. The Islanders must protect Mat Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, J.G. Pageau. I also believe the Islanders will choose to protect Josh Bailey and Casey Cizikas. On defense, they will protect Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, and Devon Toews. And the Isles will protect Ilya Sorokin. This means players like Kieffer Bellows, Scott Mayfield, and Semyon Varlamov will be unprotected. The Islanders could trade Eberle to sway the Kraken into choosing a less valuable player. The trade could be Eberle and a 4th round pick, so the Kraken chooses someone like Grant Hutton.

Replacements

The Islanders can’t make this move without knowing they have someone who can step into the first-line forward spot. I believe Anthony Beauvillier will be on the first line by then with Barzal and Lee. I also believe Kieffer Bellows or Oliver Wahlstrom will play their line onto the second line. So the Islanders need a good third-line forward. Using the cap space freed up by Jordan Eberle, the Islanders can find themselves a legit sniper. Tanner Pearson is the first name that comes to mind. Pearson recorded 21 goals and 24 assists this year. He can be the goal scorer the Islanders have needed all along.

Conclusion

The Islanders roster works itself out with this one move. With the coaching of Barry Trotz and Lane Lambert, the internal players will continue to grow. While the trade opens up more cap space to get a better goal scorer. The Islanders should make this move.

Nothing went the Islanders’ way last night….except one thing

New York islanders, Jordan Eberle

Amid the New York Islanders getting run out of the building last night in the opening game of the Eastern Conference Final, not all was lost.

Jordan Eberle, who couldn’t buy a goal during the team’s second round victory over the Flyers, finally struck pay dirt.

Eberle’s first period tally was one of two Islander goals in the 8-2 thumping. The goal was also his first in 11 games.

Even in such an awful loss, Eberle getting the proverbial “monkey off his back” might end up being a pivotal moment for he and the team as they not only try to even the series tomorrow night but continue their run to the Cup Final.

As mentioned, he had been snakebitten or just couldn’t convert anything after his fluke goal beat Braden Holtby in game one of the first round while the rest of the offense was a bit more lucky. Now that he’s off the schnide means Eberle can grip his stick a little less tight and get back to playing more loose.

The pressure might have finally ceded for Eberle too. Just watch him after he got that goal, and you can tell he looked relieved. It was as a big moment for him.

From a team perspective, maybe Ebs’ goal reassures them that the winger’s confidence might be restored. There’s no doubt they could definitely use it, especially after the confidence they saw the opposition’s forwards boasted from the get-go last night.

Tampa’s top guys came flying out of the gates and flexed their muscles early and often. Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point both ended the night with five points. Granted those numbers seem bloated because most of them came after the game was out of reach, but that still proves the Isles are going to need their forwards to have to match what those guys showed they are capable of.

That’s one of the ways the Islanders can win the series. In particular, getting that extra production from Eberle. The Isles rely on him for goals, and when he comes through like he did last night, they are a way better team and tougher to play against.

Eberle has been good for the Isles throughout this postseason. He’s got 13 points in 17 games, and he’s now got a four-game point streak and points in six of his last eight games. But the goals weren’t there.

He finally got one last night after a long drought.

On a night where nothing went good for the Islanders, this was a positive.

And who knows, it could loom large as the series moves forward.

New York Islanders: Barry Trotz must Change the Lineup for Game 7

New York islanders, Jordan Eberle

The New York Islanders have blown their 3-1 lead against the Philadelphia Flyers. Game 7 is on Saturday, and the Islanders need to make some lineup changes. With little to no momentum on their side, the Islanders need to come out swinging. Not literally swinging, but pressuring the Flyers as they did in game 1. I’ve penciled in 3 lineup changes that I believe are detrimental for the Islanders to close out the series.

Thomas Greiss

Before overtime, the Flyers had 20 shots on net, and the Islanders had 50. What was the score, you wonder? 4-4. One out of every five shots that the Flyers took went in. This is not how you win a series. Thomas Greiss is the only solution to this problem. Greiss made some huge saves during game four as the Islanders took a 3-1 lead in the series. Griess isn’t always the most reliable, but Varlamov isn’t either right now. It’s a risky move for sure, but I believe this change must occur.

Tom Kuhnhackl

Tom Kuhnhackl was excellent against the Florida Panthers and was only taken out because of the Isles’ inability to stop the power-play. Now, the Flyers’ power-play is even worse than the Islanders’. Komarov isn’t better than Kuhnhackl on offense, and the offense is what the Islanders need right now. Kuhnhackl’s forechecking works perfectly with Pageau’s ability to jump up on the defense. You can either play Kuhnhackl and get more offense or stick with Komarov and see what works.

Jordan Eberle

Jordan Eberle had at least four chances to end the series last night. Playoff Eberle has fallen off the map completely. He’s taking enough shots, but none of them are going in. I believe he has to move down a line. I don’t know who you would move up because the “B-B-B” line is doing so well. Maybe moving Josh Bailey up a line is the right move, but that’s Trotz’s decision.

Conclusion

The Islanders only have one more shot at winning this series. This is the biggest game in Islanders’ history in 27 years. The pressure is on.

New York Islanders: 3 Key Players to Yesterday’s Win

Ryan Pulock, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders beat the Florida Panthers yesterday with a score of 4-2 and take a 2-0 lead in the best of 5 series. This is a monumental win for the Islanders teams are 55-1 when leading 2-0 in a best of 5 series. Three key players helped the Islanders put extreme pressure on the Panthers.

Jordan Eberle

If you score two goals in one game, there’s a 95% chance you’re a top 3 star in the game. Jordan Eberle, who was invisible in game 1, showed up in the ladder half of game 2. Eberle’s first goal was an absolute beauty. First, he waited on his forehand and moved the defenseman. This move also moved Sergei Bobvrosky right out of his net, and Eberle being the goal scorer he is, rips it short side to put the Isles up 3-2. Eberle’s second goal was nothing special, just in the right place at the right time. The Islanders need playoff Eberle to shine if they want to make a deep run.

Ryan Pulock

Ryan Pulock possesses the hardest slapshot in the NHL. Let me reiterate, Ryan Pulock possesses the hardest slapshot in the NHL. I’ve seen Pulock injury goalies after he shoots from 50 feet away. Pulock has a powerful slapshot, but he doesn’t have the accuracy to score often. Despite this, Islanders fans beg Pulock to take the slapshot on the powerplay. This time, Pulock listened to the fans, and the shot went five-hole. Other than the goal, Pulock played solid defense the entire game. Never giving up position, and always filling his lanes.

The 4th Line

Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin make up the best 4th line in the league. This line never tries to get too fancy. They chip and chase, hit whenever they can, and keep a good forecheck/neutral zone presence. When the 4th line is playing well, the Islanders normally win. The Islanders have a way of making a two-goal lead seem like a seven-goal lead, and it starts with this line. Amazing forechecking all game, and Matty Martin scored today as well.

Honorable Mention

Tom Kuhnhackl played another great game today. Amazing forechecking, good defensive presence, hard checking, and great awareness. He even had the pass of the game, through the legs into a Matty Martin goal.

Conclusion

The Islanders play game three tomorrow at noon. This could either be the sweep the fans are clamoring for, or, the first win for the Panthers. Head coach Barry Trotz will give his players two options. You can either end the series now or let the Panthers climb back into it.