New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert has been adamant about not focusing on what happened during the 2021-22 NHL season, with his focus on a new, clean slate as the 2022-23 season gets set to kick off. However, his latest line combinations illustrate that not everything is being left in the past.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” as the saying goes.
Many would say that the Islanders’ offense in 2021-22 was broken, averaging just 2.79 goals per game. But there were times during the year when some trios did click, and it seems like Lambert’s going back to that well, hoping one line can continue their strong end to the season while another can find more of a scoring touch.
Anders Lee Back with Brock Nelson & Anthony Beauvillier
For the first time at training camp, Anders Lee was back alongside Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier, a threesome that carried the New York Islanders offense late in the season. Brock Nelson put up a career-high 37 goals, while Anders Lee, in year one following a torn ACL, scored 28 goals following a slow start to his season. Anthony Beauvillier had a tough season with just 12 goals but looked much stronger alongside those two.
This threesome played the second most minutes of any line for the New York Islanders a season ago, 279:18 minutes per Money Puck. When together, for 28 games, they outscored their opponents 18-17 with an Expected Goals For of 11.4 and an Expected Goals Against of 15.9.
The best month of the season for these three was March, where Anders Lee notched 14 even-strength points (7 goals, 7 assists), Brock Nelson with 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists), and Anthony Beauvillier with 13 points (3 goals, 10 assists) in 16 games.
Following a 6-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Mar. 26, Brock Nelson shared why things were clicking with Anders Lee.
“I think we’ve had some familiarity with one another over the years. We’ve played, you know, long stretches in our early days. And then a couple of years ago with Ebs (Eberle),” Nelson said after a game against the Boston Bruins on Mar. 26. “I know Anders’ game, you know, really well skated with him a lot year-round, so easy guy to read off of, great guy, works hard.”
“So when you get the chance to play with him, it makes my job pretty easy, and he’s dangerous out there, so that opens space up for me.”
We know that Nelson shoots the puck at will, and with Lee around the net to clean up rebounds, the biggest key and the biggest question on this line is Anthony Beauvillier. Can he create more offense with his skating ability? Can he win puck battles in the offensive zone? Can he lead rushes up the ice?
Beauvillier is the fastest of the trio, and it’s a necessity that he helps take attention away from his other linemates. He doesn’t have to be Barzal 2.0 but needs to showcase himself as a threat when the puck is on his stick.
Kyle Palmieri Rejoins Zach Parise & Mathew Barzal
On Thursday, we released a piece on the chemistry between 38-year-old Zach Parise and 25-year-old Mathew Barzal, a bond that has been growing and growing. Given training camp so far, it has become clear that Lane Lambert likes the Parise-Barzal duo.
The question was, who would win the job on the right side of that line?
Kyle Palmieri joined that duo for Thursday’s practice, a trio that could be together for opening night in a few weeks.
“We try and stay on pucks and be aggressive, and I mean, both those guys are really talented players,” Palmieri said Thursday. “I thought we had a good thing going, and I think we want to take this opportunity and kind of get that get that fire started again and see what we do chemistry-wise and get comfortable with each other, but I think as a line, it should work pretty well.”
This trio did see action last season before a Mathew Barzal injury forced a necessary dismantling of the line. But when they were together, it was not all rainbows and butterflies, being outscored 6-3 in 102:24 minutes. They had an Expected Goals For of 5.3 and an Expected Goals Against of 5.3.
All three of these players last season had 15 goals, with each having the potential to score well above 20. The first half put Parise and Palmieri behind the eight ball with just one goal for Parise through 30 games, with Palmieri only having three goals over that same span.
These linemates seem to understand their roles and what they have to do. Barzal will have the puck on his stick more often than not, and both Parise and Palmieri need to be locked and loaded when they get the puck. Both can play in the dirty areas, and if Barzal can mimic his shooting from 2021-22 (2.21 shots per game), this line could be dangerous.
But each player needs to pull their weight.