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ANALYSIS: Mathew Barzal Brings it From a Different Angle Against Dallas

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New York Islanders, Mathew Barzal

Despite being a center, New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal plays all over the ice, especially in the offensive zone. We all know that his tendency to peel off on rushes or in transition once he approaches the left circle has become predictable. We saw Barzal cut to the slot more during preseason play, and by doing that, he was more unpredictable, forcing the opposition to think twice before committing to their defensive scheme.

But we haven’t seen that kind of play from Mathew Barzal as much during the regular season.

There have been a handful of times where Barzal has cut across the slot, but the shot hasn’t come as he has elected to draw the opponents to him, which usually gives his defenseman wide-open shooting lanes as he passes it back against the grain.

It’s a strong move, but there are certain times that the Islandes want to see him let his shot go because he has shown that his shot is not a weakness.

READ MORE: Rosner: Why the Islanders Shouldn’t Wait Until Trade Deadline to Add Forward

As Barzal’s scoreless games continued, Barzal was not changing his game, trusting the process, if you will. He was creating chances, getting the looks needed to bury, but was a bit snakebitten.

On Saturday night, in the 5-2 loss to the Dallas Stars, Barzal got the monkey off his back with a two-goal performance, and at the NHL level, a goal is indeed a goal.

But it’s how the 25-year-old scored his goals Saturday that hold importance.

On Barzal’s first goal of the season early in the second period, hard work by Oliver Wahlstrom led to an Alexander Romanov wrist shot from the left point. We don’t see it often, but we saw it there as Barzal cut across the slot and deflected the shot over Dallas Stars netminder Jake Oettinger’s blocker.

In 2021-22, Barzal scored 15 goals, with just one being of the tip-in variety on six tip-in attempts.

With how active the defense has been for New York, Barzal will get those chances more often.

On a line with Zach Parise and Oliver Wahlstrom, Barzal does not have to cut to the slot often, as that’s not his job. Parise is a player who crashes the net hard, and recently, Oliver Wahlstrom has played in the low slot on the second power-play unit, and in practice lately, he was in the slot on a five-on-five drill.

But, as we saw on his first goal, it was Wahlstrom during the Barzal job of getting the puck back to the point, and Barzal just read and reacted.

For Barzal’s second goal, it did come on the power play.

So far this season, Barzal usually positions himself along the left boards, moving the puck back to the point and around the ice to find teammates for one-time options. He also has been a one-time option, given that he is a right-handed shot from the left side.

But Barzal’s second goal came off a power-play rush, and with Nelson skating along the left-side boards as he crossed the Stars’ blue line, Barzal again read and reacted as he skated through the slot, making himself a pass option.

And with time and space, Barzal did not shoot immediately as he took a few strides and made a few moves before scoring low glove side on Oettinger.

There’s the belief that Barzal does not shoot enough, especially from the slot, but he shoots more than you think. He currently has 50 shots on goal.

I caught up with Barzal a few days ago, and he told me that when we watch, it may seem like a lane is available, but we aren’t seeing it from his view, and usually, the lane is much more clogged than we think.

While it’s an encouraging sign to see Barzal score, the way he put the puck in the net should be just as encouraging.

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