New York Islanders
Barzal & Horvat: The Newest Islanders Duo Ready to Debut
The New York Islanders had one of the most prolific dynamic dups in NHL history during the Dynasty days with Mike Bossy and Brian Trottier. Since then, the Islanders have had maybe one or two duos that shined in the NHL.
The most recent one was Pierre Turgeon and Steve Thomas over the course of three seasons from 1991-1994.
Sine the calendar changed over to the year 2000…zilch.
With the New York Islanders acquisition of Bo Horvat on Jan. 30 and him signing an eight-year extension on Sunday, we could be on the verge of seeing another dynamic duo take off on Long Island as Horvat was immediately paired with Mathew Barzal.
Barzal signed an eight-year contract extension at the beginning of this season, which kicks in next year, so both he and Horvat are locked in through the 2030-31 season.
Over Barzal’s first six and a half years in the NHL, he has never been given a player of Horvat’s level to skate with and has had to deal with a revolving door of linemates throughout the years.
Just this year along, in Lambert’s first season as head coach, Barzal has been part of 15 different line combinations.
The need for stability is not something Barzal has publically said, but it’s evident for him personally and for the organization that it was a need.
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Head coach Lane Lambert played the two together immediately, with Horvat at center and Barzal on the wing.
“I’m hoping it sticks right away,” Barzal said on Sunday afternoon. “If it does, if it doesn’t, it’s just going to be a work in progress. We obviously are going to have some time together, both being here for the next eight years. So hopefully, we can get this thing off right tomorrow in Philly and just go from there, and I’m excited.”
As for playing on the wing, Barzal isn’t concerned too much.
“I’ve been here for so long, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on what the wingers are supposed to do. So I don’t think that part of it will be too big of a difference,” Barzal said.
Barzal played a handful of games with Casey Cizikas, and at times, the face of the franchise found himself on the wing.
“When Cizikas was on my line, he was playing low at times and the end of the zone, and I was playing on the wing. So I mean, I’ve been playing [wing],” Barzal said. “We have a team where if you’re in the middle, you’re playing center for that moment, and the center will play wing for a second, so it’s more so just like in the circle, I’d say.
“That’s where the centerman is really just a centerman, taking face-offs and stuff, and Bo [Horvat] is great at that, so I’m excited to have possession.”
NYI Hockey Now asked Horvat, if need be, would he be comfortable playing on the wing.
“Oh yeah, it doesn’t matter to me. Everybody ends up everywhere, all over the ice anyway. Just maybe taking the majority of the draws, which I don’t mind.”
Horvat has won 56 percent of his draws, while Barzal has won 35.9 percent.
Barzal had done his homework on Horvat, watching his hometown Vancouver Canucks and could see why the Islanders went out and got Horvat.
“I watch, was watching the Canucks games at home, and you can see his game quite a bit, so I think it’s got the potential to be great,” Barzal said. “So, I’m really excited.”
Barzal and Horvat both represented Team Canada at the 2018 World Championships, but did not play on the same line.
“We actually didn’t play on a line, but so I just got to know him as a guy, stand-up guy, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s gonna be awesome to have a good competitor and just a phenomenal player. I think even seeing him out there close up today…I haven’t seen that a while.
“So he definitely turned a lot of heads today, [with] just how talented he is. So we’re excited.”
Like we saw when Barzal played with Casey Cizikas, Horvat has a strong understanding on how to find space as well a quick release, and as we’ve seen this season, a nack for scoring with 31 goals.
“His game, it seems, just being a bull down low and great hands, good finish,” Barzal said. “You look at it on paper, you think it works. So hopefully, we can establish that right away.”
Given Barzal’s playmaking ability and Horvat’s finishing, this could be a lethal pairing if both play to the level they are capable of.
“I think we’re gonna have a good, hopefully, great eight years together. So yeah, that’s really good. We’re all excited. This was a big spark, for sure.” Barzal said.
Bo Horvat was equally excited about skating with Barzal.
“He’s got so much skill and so much ability to make plays, and it’s gonna be a treat to skate alongside him. It’s going to be a lot of fun. We can’t wait.”
Lambert was asked following Sunday’s practice if it was a no-brainer to put Horvat with Barzal immediately.
“I think Barzal, he’s been playing with Casey, and Casey’s taken some of the center responsibilities from him when that happens, so I think it’s a good fit,” Lambert said. “I think it’s something that just kind of is a little bit seamless for Barzal and for both.”
“He’s played with a lot of different guys. There’s no question about that. So, for him to have some chemistry and some continuity with somebody will be very helpful.”
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