The Islanders need Leo Komarov continuing to be himself the rest of the first round

When the critics look back on the Islanders’ game one OT win over the Penguins, they will of course look back on the sensational performance from Kyle Palmieri, J.G. Pageau and the excellent goaltending from rookie Ilya Sorokin. But there was another player who shined in a different light, Leo Komarov.

Komarov was a physical mammoth all afternoon. The veteran winger, who was saddled next to Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle on the first line, threw a whopping 14 hits in the contest. Out of the team’s 72 in the game (they were hitting everything that moved), that was the most thrown by any Islander in the lineup. According to Cory Wright of newyorkislanders.com, Komarov’s number of checks was the most by a player in the league all season.

“I thought he was excellent yesterday, head coach Barry Trotz said yesterday. He was engaged. 14 hits? That’s a lot. He’s invested. When the games matter most, he’s extremely invested. I thought he was the strongest player on their line yesterday.”

That last bit of Trotz’s praise may draw Isles’ fans ire, not only because Komarov’s linemates are two of the main offensive drivers the team possesses, but also because many have long seen him become an enigma since he signed with the organization prior to the 2018-19 season. But the fact of the matter is: even with a portion of the fans that can’t stand him, there’s another portion that understands his role. And no more was he in his element than what he did on Sunday, both at even strength and shorthanded. Go back and watch the Islanders on the penalty kill, and Uncle Leo set up some prime scoring chances.

Komarov will never be the prettiest player — he had one goals in 33 games this year — but he remains one of the most effective players in the lineup. He does the dirty work, a very underappreciated aspect lost in a game that has transitioned to more speed and skill. That nagging, in-your-face of style he plays with is what the Islanders can use to help wear down a fast, skilled Penguins squad.

Pittsburgh showed in their previous series against the Islanders back in 2019 they didn’t like being hit. The Isles pounded them into submission and swept them in four games. Komarov was an underrated force in that series and threw his weight around — 16 hits in four games — just like he did in game one. In that series, Komarov also had a goal and assist.

The point is the Islanders just need Komarov to play how he knows how. It’s one of the key components that has made the team successful in both the regular and the postseason. I had written last week, he was one player they would need to step up if the Islanders are going to win.

This series is far from over, but Komarov was great for the Isles in the opener. Now he just needs to keep it going for however long the series goes for.

Another storyline that might have been forgotten as the Isles head into tonight’s game two, their game one victory was the first they had gotten at PPG Paints Arena all season long. Out of the eight times they matched up against the Penguins, the Islanders were 0-4-0 on the road and were outscored 15-7.

Great to see captain Anders Lee get the nod as the Islanders’ representative for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy this morning. Lee, who has become a tremendous leader, has been a wonderful person for the franchise in the community all over Long Island.

“Anders is very special. there are athletes that have a presence. See he was named captain it has grown. you see the growth. he’s the last person that thinks about himself. he loves helping people,” said Barry Trotz.

 

Three players the Islanders will need to step up against the Penguins to ensure success

For any player participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the new season provides a second chance not only to write the wrongs of the regular season but also show the type of metal they possess. The Islanders know all to well about this.

In their 2019 first round sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins — the team they will also be up against in the first round of these playoffs starting Sunday — they witnessed Jordan Eberle have a phenomenal showing (six points in four games) after a so-so performance over the 82-game slate. Eberle did get hot towards the end of the year and it translated into the postseason, which changed the course of the series and gave the Islanders’ a significant advantage. Last year in the bubble it was Anthony Beauvillier, who was a bolt of lightning in the qualifying matchup against Florida and the first round beating of the Washington Capitals.

This opening round against an elite opponent has the chance to give a couple of Islanders a fresh start. Three of them elevating their game could help make the difference in them moving on or possibly going home.

We’ll start with Kyle Palmieri.

It’s not a secret that Palmieri’s stint with the Islanders has been disappointing since being acquired back at the trade deadline from New Jersey. He recorded just four points in 17 games and head coach Barry Trotz had a difficult time finding the right spot for him. He was even given a shot to play with Mathew Barzal in the second to last home game, and even that led to no results. Trotz has given Palmieri ample opportunities to try and get going, but now there is no more time for waiting.

It would be a surprise if Trotz decided to sit Palmieri if he struggles — usually he gives veterans the benefit of the doubt — but you never know what he’s thinking.

Over the last few games the 30-year-old did look a little more motivated, so maybe this is a sign of things to come. The Isles’ offense would gain a real boost if Palmieri’s goal scoring touch returned. He would also really help the team’s ability to roll their four lines and the power play which will oddly enough have the advantage going into the series.

If Palmieri is crucial offensively to the Isles having a strong series, Scott Mayfield is the one on the backend.

Mayfield didn’t have the best time in the truncated 56-game sprint. A lot of it came as a result of having to adjust to a new D-partner in Nick Leddy. Mayfield’s regular partner for over a year and a half, Devon Toews, was traded to the Avalanche in the offseason. Leddy’s solid play and numbers masked a lot of Mayfield’s declining play in his own zone.

The Isles can ill-afford to have the 28-year-old make the same mistakes especially against the speed and skill the Penguins are equipped with up front. Mayfield gets caught flat-footed a lot and sometimes goes backwards instead of going north which in the regular season led to turnovers on far too many occasions.

That was the bad. Here’s the good: Mayfield is one of the best penalty killers in the game, as Trotz referenced too last month. The Penguins own one of the top man-advantages this year. Mayfield will have his hands full with that facet, but as he’s shown over time, that’s where he’s most valuable and shines the most.

Now for the third player, and this one is a bit of a wild card: Leo Komarov.

Surprised? Don’t be. Because for as much as Komarov is loathed by a portion of the fanbase — he’s been on Barzal’s wing over the past few weeks — he will be important in trying to get the Penguins off their game.

Uncle Leo is a pest and he does his job very well. He knows how to get under the opposition’s skin. And that definitely plays a factor in the mental grind of a series opposed to the other areas which the Islanders might be lacking.

I know Leo isn’t a fantasy hockey favorite, but we’re not playing fantasy hockey,” Trotz has said about Komarov. “We’re playing with real lives bullets in the NHL. It’s nothing about analytics. It’s about heart and guts and playing the right way, being committed, and playing in these heavy games.”

So, don’t expect Komarov to be producing points — although he did when inserted into games in last year’s postseason — but expect him to do the dirty work and try and make Sidney Crosby and Co.’s life miserable.

 

New York Islanders: Is Patrick Laine a Real Possibility?

The New York Islanders might finally make the biggest splash of the summer. According to Roger Dicklund, a former NHL scout, the Jets and the Islanders have been making a ton of noise over a Patrick Laine deal. Now, this doesn’t mean the Islanders are 100% getting Laine, and that you should get his jersey right now. But, this does mean that there is a chance this deal could happen. The Islanders would have to give up on some big-time players if they want to obtain Laine. What would the deal look like?

3-Way Trade?

The Islanders might have to make a 3-way trade due to cap space restrictions. The problem with a 3-way trade is that the Islanders have to do all of the heavy lifting. And by heavy lifting, I mean getting rid of good young prospects.

So, in this scenario, I have a trade between the Jets, Islanders, and Lightning. The Islanders obviously receive Laine, but they have to trade Leo Komarov, Oliver Wahlstrom, and Nick Leddy to the Jets. While the Jets have to trade Laurent Brossoit and a first to the Lightning for Anthony Cirelli. This trade is a little bonkers, to say the least, but who says no?

Straight Up Trade?

The Islanders can make a straight-up trade with the Jets, but do the Jets want to take on a bad salary? Probably not, but at the same time, they can just lose Laine next year, so they don’t have a choice. So this trade is Patrick Laine for Leo Komarov, Nick Leddy, a 4th round pick, and Otto Koviula. I don’t think this is a bad trade, but it’s not a great trade. What are your thoughts on this?

New York Islanders: Lineup Changes for Game 2

New York Islanders

The New York Islanders got whipped last night against the Lightning. You can blame this on lack of rest, or just being out talented. There’s no room for mistakes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Changes must be made to the lineup. The Islanders need to make several changes and take game 2. Also, I will not be tackling the decision at the goalie spot just because it could be either-or.

Ross Johnston Out

I am not the biggest Ross Johnston fan, and it’s well documented. I mean, JG Pageau does the same thing, and he’s like 5 inches smaller and 60 pounds lighter. Ross Johnston doesn’t have the speed to help out the defense if they get caught on a 3v2. Johnston doesn’t play on the power-play kill. Johnston isn’t making momentum-swinging hits or fights happen. Either Tom Kuhnhackl or Michael Dal Colle should take Johnston’s spot. Kuhnhackl provides a ton of offense and forechecks with the best of them. While Dal Colle is solid in the neutral zone and is relatively fresh. The Islanders haven’t allowed a goal in the Playoffs when Dal Colle plays. One of those two must take Johnston’s spot.

Leo Komarov In

Leo Komarov is a player most teams don’t think they need, but in reality, they need him. Komarov is a grinder and plays on the power-play kill, which the Islanders need help on. The Islanders can’t allow Victor Hedman to score three power-play goals a game. Komarov will lay it all out on the line if it means he can raise that Stanley Cup. Komarov also creates offense and gets his linemates in a good position to score.

Andy Greene gets Fewer Minutes

Andy Greene has been a very inconsistent player for the Isles during the playoffs. One game, he scores from the point, and poke checks everything. Other games, he takes multiple penalties and provides too many opportunities for the other team. I don’t believe that Johnny Boychuk or Noah Dobson should take his spot, but Greene needs to earn his 17 minutes a night. The Isles are deep in the playoffs, there’s no room for error.

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 Game 3’s Win

Adam Pelech, New York Islanders

Impressive is almost an insult to how the New York Islanders played in game 3. The Flyers maybe won all of 10 minutes out of a possible 60. This game was a swing game, meaning whoever won gets all the momentum in the series. The Islanders got all the momentum and then some. There were three key players to their win, and their play was sensational, to say the least.

Mat Barzal

Mat Barzal missed two golden scoring opportunities in 20 seconds. Barzal made up for this by collecting an assist on the Islanders’ first goal of the game. It’s not easy being double-teamed, especially in Hockey, but Barzal makes it look like it’s an average morning skate. Barzal has woken up since the Florida series. He used to be the turn over machine, but now he’s opening up the offense. Barzal is making smart plays, especially on the power-play, and when Barzal is on his “A” game, the whole team is.

Semyon Varlamov

Islander fans everywhere were frightened to see a repeat performance from game 2 out of their goalie. Varlamov was on his head the entire game. Nothing phased him, not one shot. Varlamov made it look very easy tonight, and that’s a relief to Islander fans. You can’t go far in the playoffs with bad goalie play, just ask the St. Louis Blues. Varlamov got the job done in game three and possibly may play again in game 4.

Adam Pelech

Who’s the most underrated player in all of Hockey right now? If you guessed anything other than Adam Pelech, you’ve guessed wrong. When the Islanders lost Pelech, the team suffered heavily and got away from Islanders Hockey. Now that he’s back, the Islanders are the most dangerous team remaining. Pelech has amazing stick skills, and he’s strong on the puck. Not only is Pelech solid defensively, but Pelech also creates a ton of offense from his neutral zone play. He did it last game on JG Pageau’s game-tying goal, and he did it this game as well. Adam Pelech continues to be one of the best-kept secrets in the NHL.

Honorable Mentions

The captain Anders Lee has arrived, and when your captain scores every game, you better believe the team follows. Lee has six goals now in the playoffs; for someone who disappears typically in the playoffs, Lee has been “captain clutch.” Derick Brassard played a great game as well. Set Leo Komarov up for his goal, when he kept the puck in the offensive zone with 10 seconds left. Glad to see the 3rd line wingers creating offense.

Conclusion

The Islanders have two more wins left to close out this series and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1993. The Islanders are real contenders, and the NHL better start respecting them.

Leo Komarov has been one of the Islanders’ unsung heroes of the playoffs so far

Leo Komarov, New York Islanders

There have been many players who have taken hold of the spotlight for the New York Islanders during their run in the postseason.

You know the usual suspects — Semyon Varlamov, J.G. Pageau, Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier and Adam Pelech.

Then there’s Leo Komarov.

Yes, that Komarov, whose contract is despised by a majority of the fan base. The same Komarov, who only had four goals and 14 points the entire regular season. The Komarov who is more known for his dumb penalties than overall production.

Guess you didn’t expect to hear that name did you.

But lets be honest here, Uncle Leo has been terrific for the Islanders and seems like he only playing bigger as each game becomes more important.

He has especially thrived as one of the players on the club’s third line, which for most of the season, was all but a black hole.

“For me personally, I just keep it simple and try to forecheck and give the puck to my linemates,” the 33-year-old told reporters yesterday via Zoom. “Yesterday I played with Ross and Pager and we had a pretty good game.”

That pretty good game Komarov was referencing included he getting the primary assist on (J.G.) Pageau’s insurance goal early in the third, which truly sealed the Isles’ game one win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

The helper was only Komarov’s second point of the postseason. His point total, though, doesn’t take away how effective he’s been. It goes beyond the stat sheet.

Komarov has been able to contribute in all facets, even though he’s only appeared in seven of the Islanders’ ten games in the bubble. He’s brought that grit, spit and character a team needs to be successful in the postseason, Komarov has also been effective playing the role of pest. He got under the skin of Alexander Ovechkin in the previous round, challenged Tom Wilson,

The Finnish native has also recorded a team-high 32 hits.

“These two guys bring their 110 percent every day, every night, every practice,” Pageau said while praising Komarov and (Ross) Johnston. “It’s fun playing with them.”

What makes his performance in the postseason even more noticeable is he wasn’t guaranteed his regular spot when the Isles began the playoffs a few weeks back. Komarov missed the beginning of camp after taking a puck to the face which required stitches.

“In my mind, originally that was probably his spot to lose,’’ head coach Barry Trotz said during the Caps series. “He was behind the 8-ball a little bit with the injury.”

That comment aside, Komarov has continued to show why he’s a damn good player and a key piece of this group.

The Islanders’ success this postseason can be attributed to a lot of things. One of them is what Leo Komarov has brought to the table.

He’s been an unsung hero, whether people want to believe it or not.

Takeaways from the Islanders’ 2-0 win over the Captials

New York Islanders, Cal Clutterbuck

The New York Islanders beat the Washington Capitals 5-2 to take a 2-0 lead in the series. This was one of the best Islander playoff games in recent memory. The Islanders were firing on all cylinders, and for a team who “can’t score,” they scored a lot. The Isles definitely had some rough spots during this game, but that’s expected when playing a great Hockey team like the Capitals. The Islanders won 40 minutes of Hockey last night, but how, and why didn’t they win all 60?

First Period

The Capitals basically pressured the Islanders into giving up a terrible goal in the first period. Alex Ovechkin forechecked, and he was rewarded when he scored off of a slow backhander. Not even a minute in, and the Isles are one down. The rest of this period was really just good pressure by the Isles and some breaks for the Caps.

Second Period

The Islanders came to play in this period. Nic Dowd commits a penalty, and this leads to something the Islanders never do. They scored on the powerplay. Nick Leddy scores with an accurate slapshot from the point. Not even 2 minutes later, Cal Clutterbuck forechecks which leads to a Scott Mayfield pass to the crease, Matt Martin scores a tap in. A minute later, Derick Brassard leads a rush with Leo Komarov. Brassard passes it to Komarov, and he hits it off the post. Komarov missed a wide-open net. Ovechkin would take advantage of this and tie up the game once again. Finally, Brock Nelson steals the puck from Jakub Vrana and has a 1v1 with Braden Holtby. Fifteen seconds after Ovechkin ties the game up, the Islanders lead by one again.

Third Period

The last 7 minutes of this period was the best 7 minutes in recent Isles Hockey. Before that, the refs call a silly tripping penalty on Andy Greene, which leads to a blown empty-net chance by Ovechkin. Ovie had the hattrick and the game on his stick and whiffed on it. Greene comes out of the box, and then the Isles dominate 5v5 play. The Islanders at one point got two forward shifts of forechecking off before the Caps could even leave the zone. All this pressure led to JG Pageau wide open, and it was blocked, but it hit Clutterbuck’s hand and the Isles score, 4-2. Finally, after some tremendous 6v5 defense, the Islanders get the puck out, and Anders Lee scores the empty netter.

Conclusion

This was just a really solid effort from the Islanders. The Capitals are the better team on paper, but that will never stop a well-coached, determined team from winning. Game 3 is on at 12 pm EST tomorrow.