It had been seven days since Bo Horvat had his life was turned upside down. A week ago, the 27-year-old found out he was traded to the New York Islanders. But before he could get to Long Island, he had to head to South Florida for the All-Star festivities, voted in by the Vancouver Canucks fans after a dominating first half.
All Horvat kept saying during his media availabilities is how eager he was to get on the ice with his new teammates and play some meaningful games.
On Monday night, with the nerves high, he got his wish as he made his New York Islanders debut, and while being held off the scoreboard, he was key in their 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
And there he goes… pic.twitter.com/IMPXlPT2BR
— Stefen Rosner (@stefen_rosner) February 7, 2023
“I mean, I’m not gonna lie today, I was really nervous tonight,” Horvat said. “The guys made me feel really comfortable, and they were great. Obviously, it feels even better to get that win and get my legs under me, and hopefully, I’m feeling better here tomorrow.”
In 19:08 minutes, Horvat had four shots on six attempts, with two blocks, and won seven of 13 draws (54.8 percent). He did ring a shot off the crossbar as well, deflecting a Noah Dobson point shot.
Per NaturalStatrick.com, when Horvat was on the ice, 15:34 TOI, the Islanders outshot their opponents 12-7, out-chanced thee 8-6, and played strong defensively with just a 0.57 expected goals against.
Although Horvat’s offensive game was a standout, one could argue his defensive game stood out more. Despite not being credited with a single takeaway, he made a handful of plays to break up passes down low in the Islanders zone, which allowed linemate Mathew Barzal to start transitions, which led to more offense.
“I thought we established a lot of good offensive zone pressure,” Horvat said. “Kept myself out there a little too long sometimes, running on adrenaline there in the first period. I was overall happy with the game.”
“Obviously, it feels even better to get that win.”
As for what it was like to play with Barzal: “He was great. He’s got so much skill, and he creates so much out there,” Horvat said. ” I was just trying to get the pucks to him and get open, and he was finding me, found me there a couple times, and we had some good looks.”
“We got to bury them next time.”
Early in the first period, Barzal threw a puck from behind his back to Horvat in the slot, but Flyers netminder Carter Hart made a strong save.
NYI Hockey Now asked Horvat about that pass, and he said that he learned rather quickly to expect the unexpected when the puck is on no. 13’s stick.
“I think he makes it easy to play with,” Horvat said. “For me, again, just trying to get him the puck and get to open spaces, and 99 percent of the time, he’s going to find you.
“A lot of good things here tonight.”
Barzal spoke on Horvat’s defensive intelligence, as his plays in the defensive zone were critical for the line.
“He just seemed to be in the right spot,” Barzal said. “He picked off a few pucks. Was able to hit me in transition. You can just tell he’s a smart player.
“I mean, he’s a really, really good hockey player.”
And in the offensive zone: “Just every time Bo had the puck, I had confidence that he was going to make a good play. And he did.”
Islanders head coach Lane Lambert thought Bo Horvat showed well in his debut, as well as the line as a whole.
“I thought he fit in nicely. He’s very responsible, two-way player, 200-foot player. You can see it,” Lambert said. “I think, as far as the line is concerned, I thought Barzal was moving, and it looked like they had some chemistry together. I thought Bailey looked good on that line, smart player, and he fit in nicely to that thought process.”
On Tuesday night against the Seattle Kraken, Bo Horvat gets to make his UBS Arena debut, and he’s excited about it.
“Probably the same amount of nerves and butterflies playing in front of home crowd for the first time,” Horvat said. “It’s going to be exciting. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve only played in the building once, but on the away side of it, so I’m excited to be on the home side of it.”