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New York Islanders

Islanders Lane Lambert Explains Costly Line Switch




East Meadow, NY–  To begin the third period against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night, New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert switched up his lines, taking Mathew Barzal off the top line and replacing him with Oliver Wahlstrom.

In theory, the decision was supposed to fortify the team’s defense and protect a late lead, but it didn’t work in practice.

The Islanders blew their lead by allowing Detroit to score three straight goals in a span of just under four minutes and eventually lost in overtime, 4-3.

After the game, Lambert said he made the change because he felt the top line wasn’t contributing enough defensively. On Tuesday morning, he had a slightly different tone.

“I went back and looked at it,” Lambert said. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was, but certainly, we don’t want to be giving up grade-A chances. We don’t want to be trading chance for chance.”

Lambert is right. With Barzal on the Islanders’ top line, Detroit held a slight 14-12 edge in scoring chances at 5-on-5, according to However, to that point, neither the top line nor the Islanders as a whole had allowed a goal

After the switch, the Red Wings took complete ownership of the game. Barzal was on the ice for the first goal of Detroit’s comeback, while  Lambert’s new top-line combination was out-chanced 8-3 and gave up a goal of its own.

“It is what it is,” Barzal said. “Lane is the coach, and he knows what he’s doing. Sometimes, that switch-up can work the other way. Unfortunately, last night, it went that way, but I’ve seen it go the other plenty of times. Lane is a smart coach.”

At some point in the future, the Islanders will need to protect a late lead once again. But, rather than breaking up his lines to do so,  Lambert needs to let them do what they do best instead of trying to fix something that wasn’t broken in the first place.

“There’s balance with every line,” Lambert said. “With that group, there’s a balance there. There are areas we can get better at. That’s just the bottom line, and certainly, we love and want them to create all day long. They do a good job of that.”

“Those in-game decisions are made, and we learn from them as we go forward.”




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