With the amount of production we have seen from the New York Islanders’ offense, the lack of goals from Mathew Barzal has not been a problem.
Despite no goals through 14 games heading into the matchup with the Arizona Coyotes, Mat Barzal was operating at over a point-per-game pace with 15 assists. Besides Ilya Sorokin, Barzal was by far the New York Islanders’ strongest player on a nightly basis.
We know that Barzal will not go 82 games without a goal, as he is not only too talented for that but is also creating chances for himself and getting looks. He has been severely snakebitten and that word could describe what transpired against the Arizona Coyotes Thursday night, a 2-0 loss.
The New York Islanders did everything right against the Arizona Coyotes except hit the net. They finished the night with 24 shots on goal, but had 23 misses and 17 shot attempts blocked. Mat Barzal, along with Noah Dobson and Kyle Palmieri, each had five misses. Barzal also had two attempts blocked.
Per Natural Stat Trick, Barzal had six individual scoring chances for himself, which led the Islanders along with an Expected Goals For of 0.42. He also led the team with five giveaways, as he seemed to be trying to do too much when the puck was on his stick. It was not one of his better performances, an outlier performance.
But as he sat with no goals on the season, Barzal had a chance to put that narrative to bed on the power play in the third. After some strong passing, Brock Nelson found Barzal across the zone. It was a nifty pass as Arizona Coyotes netminder Karel Vejmelka was very late reading the play, and Barzal had an open cage–but he missed wide.
At that point in the game, the New York Islanders were down by a goal, and obviously, that would have been a big first goal of the season.
Now, through 15 games, Mat Barzal is without a goal, and while he isn’t frustrated, he is pressing.
“I mean, I try to score every game, every shift. So yeah, as long as the play is there and the impact is there, it’s tough to be frustrated,” Mathew Barzal said following the loss to Arizona. “So yeah, just need one to fall.”
And Barzal is right. The concern would be significantly higher if it were not for his assists and if he wasn’t creating the chances. On the season, Barzal is third on the team in shots on goal with 40. Barzal leads the Islanders with 51 scoring chances and is third in high-danger chances (19) and Expected Goals For (4.73).
Despite no goals, Barzal leads the team in assists and points.
But at some point, the Islanders need Barzal to pot one. Not that Barzal is a streaky goal scorer, but with the number of chances he is creating, if one goal in, we may see the weight lift off of Barzal’s shoulders, and he might start scoring at a significantly higher rate.
But it starts with one.
“We just want him to keep playing the way he is. As with anybody else, the goals will end up coming,” head coach Lane Lambert said back on Nov. 8. “He’s playing well right now. To worry about that would be a mistake.”
On Nov. 7, Barzal spoke about getting that first goal.
“It would grate on me a little more if we were losing hockey games because of it,” Barzal said. “The team’s been doing well, I feel like I’m setting up a lot of plays, and I like doing that, but at the end of the day, I have to score.” (h/t amNY’s Joe Pantorno).
Early on this season, we saw Mathew Barzal driving the net, cutting to the slot, a new style for him. But now, as of late, we are seeing him pull up in the offensive zone and peeling back along the boards. He’s been a little too one-dimensional in the offensive zone and too predictable. Maybe he is reverting because the goals are not coming. Perhaps he believes that since the goals are not there, peeling back allows him to create more for his teammates, which it does.
Mathew Barzal has never been an elite goal scorer and was not given an eight-year $9.15 million contract because he could score. He is being paid to produce offensively, and right now, he is on a point-per-game pace, something that he is only accomplished once in his NHL career, which came back in 2017-18 season, the year that he won the Calder Trophy.
That season, his rookie season, he scored 22 goals with 63 assists. If he is going to accomplish being over an 82-point-player this season, it will not just come via the way of the assist. And if the Islanders want to have sustained offensive success, Barzal will need to start contributing.
Right now, with the Islanders 9-6-0, there should not be panic with Barzal’s lack of goals. But players like Brock Nelson and Anders Lee, who have combined for 28.57 percent of the Islanders’ total number of goals (14 of 49), they need more help, and Barzal can provide that.
The New York Islanders host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night, a team that Mathew Barzal has five goals and eight assists against in 14 career games. If the Islanders win, that’s all that matters in the Mat Barzal book.
But getting a goal, whenever it does come, should help jumpstart what is expected to be a fantastic offensive season for the New York Islanders’ face of the franchise.