EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — When it comes to players associated with a team’s identity, it’s hard to find a closer correlation than Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck have with the New York Islanders brand.
Dubbed the identity line, their hard-nosed, gritty, blue-collar style of play has not only become the face of what Islanders hockey has come to mean, but it has endeared themselves to an entire fanbase. That love affair was only added on to on Monday night when Cizikas scored the game-winning goal in overtime to send the Islanders’ Second Round Series with the Boston Bruins back to Long Island tied 1-1.
Clutterbuck, Cizikas and Martin are not known for their offensive, even they would acknowledge that, and as a line, they’ve registered four points (three goals, one assists) combined through the first eight playoff games this year. It has been Clutterbuck who has found the back of the net among the three of them with two goals so far.
“We’re always pretty confident in ourselves in terms of what’s kind of expected of us out there,” Martin said after practice on Wednesday. “Generally we just want to get in on the forecheck, play with energy, be physical, be responsible on defense. Those things, but obviously scoring big goals is nice. I think that was an awesome moment for Casey. Scoring a big OT goal and he’s a heart and soul player for this team.”
CASEY CIZIKAS! 🚨
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) June 1, 2021
That label could just as easily be placed upon any of the three identity line mainstays. All three encompassed the heart and soul mentality through their physical play on the ice and their timely scoring when it seemed to count the most.
In the first round, Clutterbuck’s two goals came at crucial points in game 3 against Pittsburgh. His first goal pulled the New York Islanders within one and his second of the night tied the game at four.
And last year Matt Martin scored a career-high five playoff goals in the Islanders run to the Eastern Conference Finals. However, it’s the work away from the puck that truly makes the identity line what it is.
“He does a lot of the dirty work that I think the fans appreciate but he doesn’t always get the credit for,” Martin said about Cizikas. “In terms of blocking shots and faceoffs and big plays on the penalty kill, and the job he does defensively against team’s top lines.”
As three of the longer-tenured Islanders on the ice, their mark has extended well beyond the ice. The three often receive some of the loudest ovations when they’ve been introduced at the Nassau Coliseum.
And they’re sure to get a hero’s welcome if they’re given the task of starting on Thursday for Game 3 in front of a nearly full Coliseum crowd.
“We’re going to need all of their help (fans), all of their positive vibes, the craziness they can bring to the Coliseum.”
Barry Trotz ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/u3vE7OIezm
— x – New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) June 2, 2021
“There’s nothing better in life than knowing you count for something,” New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “Knowing that you’re a piece of something very important and the identity line when you have success and you have that identity. It’s easy to like the guys that work and give you everything every day. That’s the easy part in terms of liking those guys because you know they’re giving you every ounce of everything they have.
“But to do it night in and night it is the hard part and they have. … The identity they give us they do it night it in and night out. For them to have success is meaningful, because they get a lot of the grunt work and don’t get the recognition.”