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Islanders Mailbag: Matinee Win, Life Without Barzal

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New York Islanders celebrating in their 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings (Photo courtesy of New York Isanders Twitter)
New York Islanders celebrating in their 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings (Photo courtesy of New York Isanders Twitter)

The New York Islanders were dominant on Saturday afternoon against the Detroit Red Wings from the get-go, but it took a bit for the goals to come. Lane Lambert’s club was down 1-0 after forty minutes, but once Zach Parise got the Islanders on the board 2:11 minutes into the third period, the Islanders became relentless.

They added another three goals, two courtesy of Anders Lee and another via a Kyle Palmieri power-play deflection, in the 4-1 win, a monumental win.

The Islanders are now 7-3-3 since the All-Star break and 4-1-1 since Mathew Barzal went down with a lower-body injury.

The Islanders are now 32-25-8 with 72 points through 65 games, jumping the Pittsburgh Penguins to sit in the top wild-card spot. The Penguins have played four fewer games, sitting with 71 points.

Here’s a quick NYI Hockey Now mailbag:

How much will Barzal affect what the team is doing on their offensive zone break-ins? I rather see this than Barzal wheel in and turn away and turn it over. Really love how Bo Horvat just shoots from anywhere. (@gabezilla77)

The Islanders are at their best when they keep things simple. And without Barzal, you are seeing them play a different type of game. I had asked a handful of players if they felt they needed to play more defensive or change their game with Barzal out–all answered no.

Not all aspects of the game have to change, just the line that Barzal was on.

Barzal and Horvat quickly established chemistry, so how Barzal played benefitted his line.

But with him out, you are seeing Horvat shoot more and drive to the net more, not because he likes that style, but because he has to with Barzal out.

I think if and when Barzal returns, that line will be just fine, and nothing will change for the rest of the team.

It was a fast pace game. I thought Engvall looked good, for his debut was noticeable to me. They outplayed the Wings but still need to work on getting shots on net. Overall it was a good game for the Islanders. (@Josh05360259)

To your point, the Islanders did have a strong game. They were relentless on the forecheck, especially the Casey Cizikas line. They were dominating offensive zone time and did rack up the shot total. The problem was that most of their shots were from the outside, especially early.

If you look at all their goals, they came from bodies in front or from crashing the net.

To piggyback off the last question, when a player like Barzal is missing, the players on his line need to find other ways to impact the scoreboard rather than just expecting someone to find them open at the back post. They need to grind a bit more to get to those dirty areas, and you are seeing that.

As for Pierre Engvall, I thought he looked strong. He used his speed and stick effectively. He told me that he likes to carry the puck, especially from the defensive zone in transition, and he showed that as well, missing the net high at one point. But he showed well, especially on the penalty kill, which he played for a minute.

How high are the New York Islanders on Ruslan Iskhakov? Is he the next recall? (@Don94015800)

If you are the New York Islanders, you are hoping that no recalls are needed over the next 17 games. However, if there was a need for a winger, I doubt Ruslan Iskhakov would get the call-up. Yes, he’s shown well in his first season in Bridgeport, but there’s a reason why he was passed up numerous times already this season.

The Islanders are playing playoff-style hockey from now until the finish line, and quite frankly, Iskhakov is five-foot-nine, and now is not the time to experiment.

Arnaud Durandeau would likely be the call-up, as he showed well in his four games at the NHL level.

If everyone on the New York Islanders is healthy, who is sitting? (@Spazemunky)

For the sake of this question, let’s assume that Cal Clutterbuck and Oliver Wahlstrom are not coming back. No, I don’t know more than you, but just going to assume that, given their assumed injuries and whatnot.

I’m not sold that Mathew Barzal is coming back this season, but for the sake of the question, I think this would be the lineup come the playoffs if they make it:

Pierre Engvall-Bo Hovat-Mathew Barzal
Anders Lee-Brock Nelson-Kyle Palmieri
Zach Parise-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Josh Bailey
Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Hudson Fasching

I kept Josh Bailey in this lineup because he has shown to be a difference-maker in the postseason, but if Simon Holmstrom is playing much stronger hockey come the end of the season, I could see Bailey out of the lineup.

As for why I put Engvall on the top line, he has the speed to keep up with Barzal, which makes that line more dynamic. I also think Lee with Nelson worked, and we know that Lambert likes to play Parise with Pageau.

Could you see the Islanders passing the Rangers in the standings? Rangers were so busy worrying about Kane that they couldn’t trade for defensive help. (@ThomasB74456064)

Today, the Islanders are seven points back of the New York Rangers, who have played two fewer games.

Sure, the Rangers may continue to struggle and fall, but the Islanders have numerous of teams to worry about that sit right behind them. If they pass the Rangers, I don’t think people will complain, but there’s much more to worry about than that.

Are you surprised that Fasching hasn’t been given a 2yr 800k AAV extension similar to what the Rangers gave Vesey? Also, will the Isles sign Maggio and Jefferies to ELC contracts? (@aa19273179)

I’m not surprised by anything Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello does or does not do. We won’t know about extensions until they happen, and that could be announced tomorrow, or it could be announced after the season or way into the summertime.

Hudson Fasching deserves an extension, and I have more coming on that Sunday.

As for Matthew Maggio, who is having an incredible final season with the Windsor Spitfire (OHL), and Alex Jeffries, who is dominating with Merrimack College, I don’t see why Lamoriello wouldn’t give them their ELC deals.

Can you ask Lane if he adjusted the system over this past week or so? They seem to be playing Trotz hockey again. (@steve02760737)

We can ask, but I don’t think he’s adjusted his system. I think you are seeing the players making the plays, and the system is finally coming together. The defense has looked much sharper, much more structured, and keeping things simpler, which has helped all facets of the Islanders’ game.

But yes, in third periods over the last eight games, the Islanders have outscored their opponents 13-0 and have indeed played Trotz hockey to close down games. Lambert’s system wasn’t some crazy new idea, just a tad more offense, but defense has always been this team’s bread and butter, and right now, they are showing that.

Toews (Devon) has two years (including this season) left on his contract. If the Avs are in their decline, do you think we try to get him back next season? (@unflinching)

I mean, the Islanders could try. But even if the Colorado Avalanche are on the “decline” which I don’t believe they are because one, they are in third place in the West, and second because they have dealt with a tremendous amount of injuries, Toews is going to cost a lot.

I also think the Avalanche would lock him up, given how well he has played with their youngster Cale Makar, who isn’t going anywhere.

The Islanders have also locked up Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, and one would think that Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov, after their three-year extensions (if all goes well), would get locked up too. And let’s not forget Scott Mayfield if an extension comes for him.

The Islanders won’t have the room or need for a Toews, especially with a cap hit that he will likely command.

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