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Coach Boychuk? Former Defenseman Helps Coaches During Islanders Practice

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Johnny Boychuk

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — There was a familiar face on the ice at Northwell Ice Center. Johnny Boychuk helped out the New York Islanders coaching staff during Saturday’s practice as the team prepared for Sunday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Boychuk ended his 13 year NHL career in November due to an eye injury and was placed on LTIR at the start of this season. Saturday was not Boychuk’s first time on the ice for practice, having worked with the taxi squad players and he had been on the ice at times during training camp.

Boychuk has been seen around the organization publically several times this week. On Monday, the MSG broadcast caught Boychuk sitting next to Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello in a suite at Nassau Coliseum.

His continued presence around the Islanders organization has been a welcomed one by the rest of the team.

“It’s great for us. We love Johnny,” Josh Bailey said after practice. “We’ll take him as much as we can get him. It would have been tough to just more or less go cold turkey and not see him. He’s been such a big part of our dressing room for a long time. To get to have him out on the ice with us and to see him on a daily basis has been really great.”

Additionally, Boychuk had been skating with Mathew Barzal while he and the team sorted out his new contract the first week of training camp.


Josh Bailey became the first Islander to deal head-on with a COVID-related issue this season.

The veteran forward missed a day of practice this week and was briefly on the COVID-protocol list before returning to the lineup the following day. Bailey, along with the rest of the team, has been adhering to the COVID protocols, but potentially came into contact with the virus after his youngest son’s teacher tested positive for COVID-19.

A few days later when Bailey went to check on his son he noticed that he sounded a little sick and had a bit of a cough, the Islanders forward said. They had him tested and it came back positive for the virus.

The result ended up being a false positive and Bailey’s son tested negative twice over the following two days.

“For a couple of days there it was touch and go, but at the same time it all worked out,” Bailey said.

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New York Islanders

Rosner: Semyon Varlamov Had to Battle in Islanders Win Over Bruins

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Semyon Varlamov

What was there not to love about the New York Islanders 7-2 victory over the Boston Bruins? Mathew Barzal was dynamic, the defense got involved in the offense and the Islanders beat one of the best teams in the National Hockey League for the third time in as many tries this season. 

BOSTON BEATDOWN: Five-Goal Third Period Leads Islanders to Win Over Bruins

Islanders netminder Semyon Varlamov started his fourth consecutive hockey game and stopped 34 of the 36 shots he faced on Thursday. The two goals that did enter the back of the net were not on him, as the first goal was a tap-in for Nick Ritchie, while the second came off an unfortunate deflection in the slot.

Varlamov also picked up his first point of the season whe he picked up the secondary assist on Barzal’s goal in the second. He stopped 12 of the 13 high-danger chances he faced in the win and was named the third star of the game.

But Varlamov was not as sharp tonight as he had been in games past.

In his last outing, a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres, Semyon Varlamov stopped 34 of 36 shots and was called upon to make many big-time saves. Last night, Varlamov did not seem as strong structurally as he had been and he had to battle until the Islanders could pull away in the third period. I would even go as far as to say that this was his worst performance of the season in regards of rebound control. 

As the first period came and went, Varlamov seemed to be slightly delayed in his reaction time, whether it be finding loose pucks or tracking pucks off Boston sticks. The fact that the Bruins were only able to score twice speaks volumes to the help Varlamov got from his teammates in front, as well as Varlamov’s ability to battle through adversity. 

After one period of play, Varlamov stopped 14 of 15. His rebound control did not get much better in the second period, as less than a minute into the middle frame, a backhand shot off the stick of David Pastrnak caromed off of Varlamov’s pad and right to the slot. However, defenseman Adam Pelech was in the right spot to clear the puck to the corner as play continued. 

A couple of minutes later, Jake DeBrusk found himself on a breakaway following a Barzal turnover. While Noah Dobson was able to disrupt the shot, Varlamov played the scoring chance rather nicely. On breakaways, the goaltender is supposed to be aggressive but then judge the player’s speed and skate backward accordingly. Varlamov did just that as he denied the opportunity. 

As seconds remained in the middle frame, Semyon Varlamov could not control a deep shot off the stick of Pastrnak from a few feet inside the blue line. The puck would hit off of his glove and right to Sean Kuraly in front, but he was unable to corral the puck as time expired. A goal there would have put the Islanders in a rather challenging position in the third period against one of the best lockdown teams in all of hockey.

Semyon Varlamov stopped 12 of 13 in the middle frame, as the game went to the third period knotted at two.

The third period would be a relatively easy period for Varlamov, as the Islanders jumped all over former Islander Jaroslav Halak and the Bruins for five unanswered goals.

Four minutes into the final period, with the score still tied, Varlamov denied Charlie Coyle, who made a nice power move towards the goal, as he let a backhand shot go. Backhand shots are the hardest for a goaltender to read, given how it comes off the stick, but Varlamov, whether it looked pretty or not, made the save. 

At 12:04 of the third period, with the Islanders now up 4-2, Casey Cizikas would go off for delay-of-game. Seconds prior, Semyon Varlamov would fight off a DeBrusk shot from a bad angle as the puck came right back out in front. Anders Bjork looked to jump on the loose puck, despite three Islanders in the vicinity. The Islanders won the puck battle as Cizikas picked it up to the right of Varlamov but then sent his clearing attempt out of play. While the penalty was not Varlamov’s fault, it could have been prevented if Varlamov controlled the rebound.

The Islanders continued to rally on and dominate the offensive zone, as Varlamov only faced eight shots in the final twenty minutes. He would pick up his third win against the Bruins this season (3-0-0) and has a 1.33 GAA with a .959 SV% against the best team in the East Division. 

“Varly came up with key saves at key times for us tonight,” said Barry Trotz following the game. And that is precisely how I would describe the performance of Varlamov. It was not pretty by any means, but he got the job done.

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New York Islanders

A Year Later, Jean-Gabriel Pageau Proving to be an Invaluable Asset for Islanders

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Jean-Gabriel Pageau

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — On the week of the one-year anniversary of the New York Islanders acquiring Jean-Gabriel Pageau and his first game in blue and orange, the 28-year-old is proving why he was worth the hefty price to bring him to Long Island.

Pageau was one of seven different Islanders to score on Thursday in their 7-2 win over the East Division-leading Boston Bruins. Pageau has made it a bit of a habit this year to haunt Boston whenever they face the Islanders.

In three games, Pageau has four goals against Boston which included the game-winner in their first meeting of the year on Jan. 18. On Thursday, he had a shorthanded goal to put the Islanders up 5-2 at 12:24 of the third period and in the process picked up his second shorthanded goal of the season.

And most importantly for the Islanders in their win over Boston was that Pageau was able to take the place of Cal Clutterbuck after he was injured in the middle of the game.

“Pager can kind of do it all. Play any position and he is that utility piece for us,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “He’s been playing some phenomenal hockey all season. Getting him some extra ice is not going to hurt us at all.”

After Clutterbuck left the game on Thursday, Pageau was double-shifted by Islanders head coach Barry Trotz and put in Clutterbuck’s spot on the fourth line. The transition was seamless and the Islanders energy line didn’t miss a beat with Pageau on the wing.

The versatility Pageau has brought is something that Trotz has taken advantage of this year.

“He is so useful and he had some bite and snarl, and jump tonight,” Trotz said. “I can use him in so many different areas. I can use him in all three forward positions, obviously. It’s a good fit having that luxury of Pager being able to play in multiple lines.”

When the Islanders traded for Pageau they did pay a bit of a king’s ransom for the forward who was in the midst of a career-year. They had to send a first and second-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for Pageau and then promptly signed him to a six-year, $30 million contract extension, which caused some grumbling in Islanders country.

What the Islanders have gotten out of the deal could be worth more than what they had to give up in money and draft picks. Pageau instantaneously embraced his new team, scoring and getting into a fight with Jacob Trouba in his first game with the Islanders.

He became an invaluable piece during the Islanders’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals both on and off the ice. And this he’s picked up where he left off, tied for second on the team in goals with eight and tied for third in points with 12.

“Looking back (at the trade) I’m super excited with the result,” Pageau said before the Islanders decimated Boston. “I feel like it’s been going pretty fast. Just coming then going to the playoffs then going back to Ottawa to spend the shorter summer. And then coming back here for training camp and starting the year. It’s just been rock and roll, but I’m excited and I can’t wait to have more years here.”

Goalscorer, versatile forward, penalty killer and power-play performer are all ways to describe what Pageau has brought to the Islanders. But this season, there is one more quality that can be added to the list.

That would be a mentor.

Pageau has been playing alongside rookie Oliver Wahlstrom as of late and the two have been clicking since Trotz put the youngster into the lineup. Wahlstrom had come into this year as someone who had been known to have a more offensive mindset and he has been able to pick the brain of Pageau since they started playing with one another.

“He took me under his wing right away,” Wahlstrom said earlier in the week about Pageau. “He’s an easy guy to talk to and it’s fun learning from him. I’m not afraid to ask him questions and he’s just been a huge help. He’s been getting my confidence up a little bit, which is good. He’s been unbelievable for me and he’s playing unbelievable right now.”

The proof is certainly in the pudding. Wahlstrom assisted on Pageau’s game-winner on Monday and Wahlstrom scored his second goal of the year on Thursday when Pageau was on the ice.

Islanders star Mathew Barzal described Pageau as a utility knife because he can do just about everything. A year after joining the Islanders, it’s become clear just how true that really is.

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New York Islanders

Islanders’ Anthony Beauvillier Flips Momentum With Goal Against Bruins

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Anthony Beauvillier

It would’ve been hard to envision the New York Islanders getting to game No. 19 and not having a goal from Anthony Beauvillier yet, but that’s where things stood Thursday.

More than that, Beauvillier had just two points heading into a matchup with the Boston Bruins.

An injury had kept Beauvillier out of the lineup for about four weeks, but even then, the speedy winger hadn’t gotten off to the fastest start on the scoresheet.

He changed that in an important third-period swing in Thursday’s 7-2 win.

With the Islanders and Boston knotted at 2-2 in the final frame, Beauvillier’s tenacity on the forecheck gave him a goal and the Islanders the lead in one fell swoop.

After taking a pass from Mathew Barzal, Beauvillier sped down the left wing and fired a shot from the faceoff dot. Jaroslav Halak made the initial stop and the rebound plopped in front of the crease in Trent Frederic’s control. But Beauvillier snuck behind Frederic, used a stick lift and a quick backhander to put the Islanders in front.

Beauvillier, who hadn’t scored since the 2020 playoffs, notched his first in the regular season since Feb. 17, 2020, against the Arizona Coyotes. It started a five-goal swing for the Islanders, and Barzal said it was Beauvillier’s cheeky strike that helped open the “floodgates”

“Love seeing him smile,” Barzal said of Beauvillier. “He loves scoring so whenever he gets one or a guy like that that hasn’t had one yet, that’s definitely a big boost for the bench.”

Maybe that smile — and goal — will get Beauvillier back to the level he was playing at during the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles. The Quebec native had a breakout of sorts in the postseason, totaling nine goals and 14 points in 22 games. It was after he had put up a career-best 39 points in a truncated regular season.

BOSTON BEATDOWN: Five-Goal Third Period Leads Islanders to Win Over Bruins

Things didn’t start out in similar fashion for Beauvillier once the calendar flipped to 2021, when he had just one assist through six games. It was a noticeable lack of scoring from him and the second line as a whole as the team saw its offensive production dip in the first few weeks of the season. Then came the lower-body injury that prevented him from getting into the lineup for nine games.

But the positive signs are there for Beauvillier now, who has two points over his last three games, including an assist on Feb. 20 against Pittsburgh.

Though he has just the one goal this year, the 23-year-old has a 64.71 high danger changes for percentage at 5-on-5, which ranks second on the team behind Nick Leddy among skaters with 10 games played.

Shooting 6.25 percent in all situations on 16 total shots, there’s a little bit of being snakebitten combined with not shooting enough (6.1 shots per 60 minutes) to get the puck in the back of the net.

But if Beauvillier continues to do what he did against Boston, he’ll be getting on the scoresheet more consistently.

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