Scott Mayfield made huge strides in the playoffs for the Islanders

At one point during these past playoffs for the Islanders, a lot of the talk was about d-man Scott Mayfield. Now just six days since the team’s postseason run ended, the talk is still about him.

With the expansion draft coming in a few weeks, the Isles have some tough decisions ahead of them to keep the core intact after they reached a second consecutive Eastern Conference final. One of those difficult determinations will be to protect or expose Mayfield, who is the type of player — still considered young at 28-years-old and with a bargain of a contract — that might be a very viable option for the expansion Seattle Kraken.

No one would fault Seattle g.m. Ron Francis if he plucked Mayfield away from the Island especially after the outstanding postseason he just had.

“Mayfield has been a key part of this team for the past few years in the shutdown role that he plays,” said teammate Ryan Pulock during the series with Tampa Bay.

Pulock isn’t just blowing smoke either — Mayfield was a tour de force for the Islanders from the moment the playoffs began.

His performance in the first round against the Penguins — at one point during that series he was leading the team in points — was an underlying factor in the Isles advancing to the second round. Against Boston, Mayfield threw his weight around and helped shut down Taylor Hall, whom the Islanders decided to pass up on at the deadline and was supposed to help edge the series in the Bruins’ favor. Then versus Tampa, he did commendable work on the penalty kill and scored the tying goal in Game 6 to help the Isles force overtime.

Mayfield ended the postseason with a +12 rating in 19 games, which was the best among the team. Some look at plus-minus as a useless stat, but that number proves the rangy d-man was on the ice for way for when the Isles were at their best.

“I think personally I had a pretty good playoffs,” Mayfield said during the club’s exit meetings on Sunday. “The biggest thing for me is that we’re not happy losing in the semifinals. I’m definitely happy with the way I played and the team played. But we wanted more.”

Mayfield’s strong play might have also saved his spot for the future as an Islander. The regular season wasn’t a good one for him in particular, as he struggled to find chemistry with Nick Leddy on the team’s second d-pair. The metrics for that duo during the 56-game sprint was a concern going into the playoffs and many thought it would be a reason the Isles wouldn’t go far.

That was not nearly the case.

The Islanders got as far as they did because of players like Mayfield stepping up, among many other things.

Leddy on the other hand struggled and looked worn down. Not saying that could play a factor in whether g.m. Lou Lamoriello protects Mayfield over Leddy, but it should be taken into consideration when the team’s list is made.

If Mayfield does remain in blue and orange a few weeks from today, this postseason will be huge momentum wise for him going into next season. The strides he made were definitely unexpected but proved he was a critical piece of the Islanders’ overall success.

Islanders’ Scott Mayfield quietly having an outstanding postseason

There was a common theme as the Islanders came away with their 5-4 win in Game 5 last night.

Defenseman Scott Mayfield seemed to be everywhere. NBC’s Pierre McGuire, who was inside the glass in Boston, seemed to point out how excellent the 6’5, 220-pound was each shift he was on the ice.

“What a tower of power Mayfield has been on the backend,” McGuire uttered during the third period after Mayfield made yet another heads-up play.

Mayfield was clearly the Isles’ best defenseman on Monday evening. Even after taking a clear elbow to the head early in the game from the Bruins’ Nick Ritchie early in the game, Mayfield racked up 24:13 of ice time, blocking five shots and registering one takeaway. His impressive play with the Islanders still up by two in the third — intercepting a David Pastrnak pass that was heading straight for David Krejci who was darting straight for the net — stopped a potential scoring chance.

That breakup was just one of the several key plays at big moments Mayfield has been in the middle of in what has been a tremendous postseason for him to date.

Mayfield it can be argued has been the Islanders’ best defender in the playoffs outside of Adam Pelech. He’s second on the team this postseason for a d-man in points and assists. Rookie Noah Dobson leads both those categories shockingly. At both ends of the ice and on the penalty kill, Mayfield has flourished. The fight game has also shown from the 28-year-old, as proven by his walloping of Taylor Hall in game four.

“It’s kind of physicality meeting each other,” Mayfield said. “We both play hard, straight line hockey. It’s a battle, I think the series has been great so far. We want to bring that physicality and I think we’re doing a good job right now.”

Mayfield contributing a strong postseason couldn’t have come at a better time for himself, both with the Seattle expansion draft coming soon and the duo of him and Nick Leddy struggling to find their footing on many occasions during the regular season. He and Leddy were made a pair in training camp after his original partner, Devon Toews, had been dealt in the offseason to Colorado.  They have had their couple of down moments in the Islanders’ run thus far, but Mayfield individually has made up for it with some monster performances.

“He’s a defender, a hard guy on the defensive side of the puck number one,” Trotz said previously of Mayfield. “And then he does contribute offensively at a pretty reasonable rate pace for what I would consider a defender type of guy. He’s just grown his game on the ice and then off the ice he’s extremely well respected by his peers and his teammates. He can play the game in a physical way and he can play the game against the top skilled guys in the league and feel comfortable.”

The Islanders now sit one win away from advancing to the third round for a second consecutive season. Scott Mayfield has played a critical role in that happening.

If you asked anyone before the postseason began who the Islanders’ team-leader in goals would be, no one in their right mind would have said Kyle Palmieri. Yet here we are on the day before Game 6 and he’s got six in 11 games. To say that’s remarkable would be an understatement considering he had just two in 17 regular season games after the Isles traded for him at the deadline.

Palmieri is an unrestricted free agent after this season ends. With the way he’s playing right now, it could very much be Palm Island on Long Island if things continue the way they’re going.

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: Analyzing the Seattle expansion draft

New York Islanders, Anders Lee

The New York Islanders have a big decision to make when the Seattle Kraken joins the league. The rules must be followed as such. Each team has the choice to either protect 7 forward, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie. Or, they can protect 8 total skaters and 1 goalie. It makes sense for the Islanders to follow the first option, as they have more talented skaters up and down the roster. The Islanders also have an exempt list full of young players who they don’t have to protect because they can’t be chosen. This list contains players like Oliver Wahlstrom, Ilya Sorokin, Noah Dobson, Anatoly Golyshev, Bode Wilde, and Samuel Bolduc. There are obviously more players on that list, but those are the key ones. Who will the Islanders protect?

Forwards

The Islanders can only protect 7 forward, and most of their choices are pretty obvious. Anders Lee, Mat Barzal, JG Pageau, Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle, and Anthony Beauvillier. This leaves one spot left with a bunch of forwards vying for that spot. I don’t believe the Kraken would take Casey Cizikas just because his contract is expiring this year. This leaves Josh Bailey, Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck, Leo Komarov, Michael Dal Colle, and Kieffer Bellows left. The Kraken aren’t going to take Clutterbuck, Martin, Komarov, or Dal Colle. If you’re looking at the most valuable, it’s a decision between Bellows and Bailey. Honestly, I’d leave Bailey unprotected; he hasn’t really ever met that potential that he had when he was drafted. It’s possible he doesn’t get picked because of his large contract.

Defensemen

This decision is pretty easy due to the fact that Noah Dobson doesn’t have to be protected. Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech are going to be protected, not that shocked anyone. Scott Mayfield, Nick Leddy, Andy Greene, Thomas Hickey, Parker Wotherspoon, and Sebastian Aho are left. Based on age and value, Andy Greene and Thomas Hickey are not getting picked at all. Parker Wotherspoon and Sebastian Aho are unproven, so they’re out of the question. Nick Leddy 100% gets protected over Scott Mayfield based on production.

Goalies

It’s not even a question of who the Islanders are going to protect. It’s between their franchise goalie Semyon Varlamov and their third-string goalie Cory Schneider. At the end of the day, Cory Schneider is not getting protected, but he most likely won’t get picked.

Scott Mayfield has made big strides this postseason for the Islanders

There’s been a lot to be excited about as the New York Islanders during their run in the playoffs. That includes the progression from one player who has been a big part of the steadfast defensive core they’ve built in recent years, Scott Mayfield.

Mayfield, despite a few setbacks (or broken sticks to be specific), has made some big strides since the Isles have started bubble play at both ends of the ice.

In 21 games, Mayfield has recorded five points and is a +13 overall, which is the best on the team. Three of those five points too came at the tail end of the previous series against the Flyers. He’s totaled 23 shots, showing he hasn’t been afraid to try and get in on the offense.

Mayfield’s lone goal in the playoffs — the game-winner in game seven against Philadelphia — was a beautiful wrister and a shooters shot.

From a defensive standpoint, Mayfield looks a lot more comfortable. As opposed to his defensive partner Devon Toews — who was very solid through the first half of the team’s run but has struggled a bit as of late — Mayfield’s been sharper in his own zone and used his size and physicality to his advantage.

His hits (46) and blocks (45) are right at the top for the club, according to quanthockey.com. Mayfield’s also done a terrific job on the penalty kill as a part of the first unit with Adam Pelech, Cal Clutterbuck and J.G. Pageau. They’ve been responsible for helping the team only allow 12 goals on 76 opportunities shorthanded.

Has Mayfield too had his moments where he’s had trouble? Yes. But that comes with the territory when a team gets as far as the Islanders have.

Still, there’s been way more positive than negative.

It’s interesting that it’s turned out that way too because before the regular season paused back in March, the 27-year-old Mayfield looked as if he had taken a step back.

When Pelech went down in early January with an Achillies injury, it left a huge void and it really allowed things to get discombobulated for Mayfield and the d-corps as a whole. During that period, Mayfield was missing assignments and he stopped playing with a physical mindset. He looked as if he was trying not to make a mistake instead of being more loose and confident with and without the puck.

Those struggles from Mayfield feels like they were years ago as compared to just seven or eight months ago. Now, he looks again like the solid defender who was one of the biggest suprises from the season prior and the steady presence whom head coach Barry Trotz came to trust in important situations.

As the Islanders get set for another do-or-die Game Six tonight against the Lightning, they are going to need all hands on deck. They are going to get Tampa’s best game, with or without their star forward Brayden Point.

That means getting a strong showing from the likes of Mayfield as he’s done for a while now. He’s been one of the exciting developments from this run. And the strides he’s made have been great to see.

 

 

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.