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Islanders Barzal on Fire, Who’s Been His Better Right Winger?

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New York Islanders Mathew Barzal (Photo via New York Islanders Twitter)
New York Islanders Mathew Barzal (Photo via New York Islanders Twitter)

The face of the New York Islanders franchise, Mathew Barzal, is on an absolute tear right now. He is currently riding a four-game goal streak for the first time in his NHL career, with five goals over that span–six goals in his last six games.

In front of friends and family in his native British Columbia on Tuesday night, Mathew Barzal notched three points in a 6-2 beatdown of the Vancouver Canucks.

“Hockey’s a game of bounces, it really is. I’m fortunate to be on the right side of those lately,” Mathew Barzal said.

New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert believes that Barzal is shooting the puck more than he was earlier in the year, and that’s why the goals are coming now.

Over the first 30 games, Barzal had just three goals and shot the puck 2.25 times per game, with a 4.2 shooting percentage. Over the last six games, with six goals, Barzal is averaging 2.33 shots per game, with a 42.85 shooting percentage.

After no goals in the first 18 games of the season, Barzal now has 10 goals and 30 assists for 40 points in 39 games.

What’s been impressive about this latest stretch for Barzal is that he’s doing it without his usual right winger Oliver Wahlstrom, who sustained an injury in the Islanders 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers.

Wahlstrom is on Injured Reserve and is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury.

The two had been linemates since Oct. 26, and while the goals did not come at the rate the Islanders would have liked, the defensive play alongside Josh Bailey had been strong.

In Wahlstrom’s absence, Lambert has used two right-wingers alongside Barzal.

The first-year bench boss has shuffled his lines often over the last six games, which includes fourth-line center Casey Cizikas and third-line winger Hudson Fasching getting chances with Barzal.

But which winger has brought out the best in Barzal over these last six outings?

Barzal With Cizikas

Due to the magnitude of injuries facing the Islanders, specifically a minor injury to centerman Casey Cizikas, top prospect Aatu Räty was recalled for that game against Florida. He’s remained up with the club serving as the fourth-line center with Cizikas being moved to the wing. 

Because of that, Lambert initially went with Cizikas as the third-line winger alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Zach Parise, but it seems every time he mixes up his lines, Cizikas finds himself next to Barzal.

Besides Cizikas having strong enough wheels to keep up with the speedy Barzal, his ability to win face-offs (54.6 percent) allows him to take the draws for that line. 

Barzal has only won 31.2 percent of his draws this season.

While alongside one another, 28:34 TOI, the Islanders have outscored their opponents 3-0, with each scoring a goal. The Islanders have created 16 scoring chances to their opponent’s nine, with six high-danger chances to the opposition’s three, per NaturalStatrick.com.

As a line, with Josh Bailey in the left-wing position, the Islanders are tied with their opponents with nine shots on goal each, two goals for, none against, out chancing their opponents 13-8, with the edge in high-danger chances 5-3.

In the 4-1 loss to the Seattle Kraken on Jan. 1, Cizikas found Barzal cutting to the net, which tied the contest at one late in the first for his 100th career goal:

In the 6-2 win over the Canucks, Cizikas scored on a beautiful no-look pass by Barzal:

“You kind of follow him up the ice, and you try to find an area where you know he’s gonna be able to get you the puck, and you give him a yell, you give him a holler,  if he thinks he can get it there, he’s gonna try, and that’s the biggest thing,” Cizikas said. “Like I said before, the way he’s dominating the play with the puck, the way he’s controlling it and making the other team as uncomfortable as I’ve seen in a long time, he’s a fun guy to play with when you’re doing that.”

Earlier in the contest, Barzal gave the Islanders a 3-1 lead, and while the goal was unassisted, it was Cizikas on the forecheck that made the goal possible:

It seems that Lambert favors Barzal with Cizikas, but Fasching has also played pretty well alongside no. 13.

Barzal With Fasching

As mentioned, head coach Lane Lambert paired Hudson Fasching with Mathew Barzal once Oliver Wahlstrom went down. Despite continuing to break this duo up during games, Fasching has been consistent in how he has played since being called up, and his style has benefitted Barzal.

While alongside one another, 17:37 TOI, the Islanders have outscored their opponents 3-0, just like with Cizikas. They have outshot their opponents 12-6 but have been out-chanced 10-7, with just one high-danger chance to their opponent’s four.

As a line with Josh Bailey, the Islanders have outshot and outscored their opponents 9-4 and 2-0, respectively.

In the Islanders 5-1 win over the Penguins, Barzal deflected a Fasching shot into the back of the net to give New York a 2-1 lead just 50 seconds into the second period:

While Fasching did not get credit for the assist on Barzal’s second goal of the game, it was his hard work down low that created the goal”

“It’s fun. It’s a different type of game,” Fasching told NYI Hockey Now about playing with Barzal. “He’s a really creative player, and you have to adjust your game but still try to stay true to yourself at the same time. So I think that’s kind of finding the balance of, like, how my game can mesh with his and I’m just trying to get open for him. “He holds onto the puck and creates plays by drawing guys into him, so you’re trying to find those spots where he creates the other space behind him and try to use that.”

For Fasching, he has been a tremendous player for New York since being recalled, and while he has played well up and down the lineup, he seems at his best alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Zach Parise.

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