When Barry Trotz was asked to evaluate the game of Mathew Barzal ahead of his 300th career game in the NHL, the New York Islanders head coach paused for a moment.
Barzal’s explosive offensive skills are no secret in the NHL. Through the first 299 games of their career, he has put up 259 points. Only seven other players in franchise history have recorded more points. Among them are legendary names like Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier and Denis Potvin.
However, where Trotz has seen the biggest growth in Barzal’s game has been in his “acceptance.”
“What I mean by that is acceptance of the game is on both sides of the puck,” Trotz said. “The game is a cause and effect relationship. Your piece of the job if you don’t do there is an effect. He’s putting those pieces together where I think when I first got here he accepted it, but wasn’t really putting it together. … He did it because that was what he was supposed to do.
“Now I think he looks at it a little differently. That’s where I think he’s starting to grow.”
The superstar forward has played all 299 games as a member of the Islanders, a feat he is glad to have done.
Still, even as his game has grown on both sides of the puck, Barzal can’t help but want more out of himself this season. Through the first 10 games of the year, Barzal has seven points (three goals, four assists) and the newly formed top line of Barzal, Anders Lee and Josh Bailey has been slow to get fully going.
“I think there’s been some games where maybe I haven’t been as dynamic or had the puck as much as the last two,” Mathew Barzal said. “Or the line hasn’t been as good as the last two, but I think there’s times when we get a lead. … There’s not much I really need to go out there and break the game open or try to make an explosive play to get us on the board.
“We’re up so in those situations Barry manages our bench and manages who’s on the ice at what time, and does a good job. I thought as of late our line started to play a little better and hopefully we can just build on that.”
Thursday’s game in Newark will serve as the milestone moment for Barzal. The Islanders are 5-3-2 through their first 10 games.