New York Islanders: Lineup changes must be made

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders are doing their signature late regular-season skid right now. The problem is, within this division, with these great teams, there is no room for a skid. The Islanders have 7 games left, and 4 of them are easily winnable. If the Islanders can’t sneak out at least 6 points from 4 games against the Devils and Sabres, they shouldn’t be in the playoffs. The other three games are against their archenemy, the New York Rangers, and the big bad Boston Bruins.

The Islanders have a clear shot into making the playoffs, all they have to do is beat the Rangers in regulation twice. These lines that Barry Trotz has been putting together as of late haven’t been cutting it. I think tonight’s lineup should read as such.

First Line

Mat Barzal is never coming off of the first line, he’s the best player on the ice at all times. Barzal needs to get going, 13 straight games without a goal aren’t going to cut it. The Islanders traded for a power forward who can snipe and is used to playing first-line minutes. Kyle Palmieri needs to be on the first line for at least 3 games before Trotz switches it up again. On the right-wing, I think Jordan Eberle still earns his spot there. He’s really been playing solid Hockey, he just needs a little help from his linemates.

Second Line

Oliver Wahlstrom should be playing every single night regardless of his play from the prior night. Trotz is hurting the younger kids’ development by sitting them every time they make a mistake. You cannot play good Hockey if you’re afraid to mess up. Wahlstrom should be accompanied by Brock Nelson, the two are a perfect fit. Nelson loves slashing to the net and dangling around defenders, why not give him someone who can rip it into the toy department from the faceoff circle. The right-wing on this line is a little sketchy. Travis Zajac needs to step his play up. For a forward line to work, all 3 guys must be on their toes and moving. Zajac moves in slow motion.

Third Line

I have no idea why Trotz broke up the line of Anthony Beauvillier, JG Pageau, and Josh Bailey. That line just works to perfection for some reason. Pageau winning faceoffs and cutting to the net mixed with Josh Bailey’s good passing and Beauvillier’s speed is a nightmare for defenders. This line just works, and there is no reason to move any of these guys.

Fourth Line

The energy line will remain the energy line. These guys play really well together when things are clicking. But, they shouldn’t be relied upon to get a goal. I still think Clutterbuck, Martin, and Cizikas have another year left together.

New York Islanders: Expectations for Semyon Varlamov

New York Islanders

The New York Islanders signed goalie Semyon Varlamov to a 4-year deal in free agency last year. Varlamov proved to everyone that his 2013-14 Vezina Trophy finalist season wasn’t a fluke. Varlamov recorded 19 wins, a .914 save percentage, and a 2.62 GAA in 39 games started.

In the playoffs, Varlamov would continue to shine with the Islanders as he single-handily won them a couple of games. Former Islanders’ goalie Thomas Greiss obviously held down a couple of wins too. Greiss relieved a lot of pressure off of Varlamov all season long. But, Thomas Greiss is in Detroit now, and rookie Ilya Sorokin takes the backup slot. There are some big expectations for the Islanders’ star goalie going into the 2020-2021 season.

Top 10 Goalie

The Islanders are not a team that can put up four goals every night and wins just off of firepower alone. They win off of their defensive schemes and good goalie play. If the Islanders want to make another deep playoff run, Semyon Varlamov must take another leap.

Varlamov might be 32 years old, but maybe you can still teach an old dog new tricks. I believe the stats Varlamov needs for him to be considered a top 10 goalie reads as follows. He needs under a 2.55 GAA, with a .917 save percentage. I assume he will play over half the 56 games during this season as well. If he plays 31/56 games with those aforementioned stats, he will be a top 10 goalie.

Mentoring Ilya Sorokin Correctly

How would one even measure if Varlamov’s teachings affect Sorokin’s’ playing abilities? “That’s another dumb point, all you make is dumb points.” Marc-Andre Fleury mentored Matt Murray, and the Penguins won 2 Stanley Cups in 3 years because of that.

Ben Bishop mentored Andrei Vasilevski, and Vasilevski has been a top 3 goalie for the past 5 years. Braden Holtby mentored Ilya Samsonov, and now Samsonov is one of the top young goalies in the league. If Semyon Varlamov can mentor Ilya Sorokin in the same ways that these guys did for their backups, the Islanders will win a Stanley Cup soon. There is no doubt in my mind about this at all. I expect Varlamov to do this successfully.