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New York Islanders

Barzal Line Still a Work in Progress, Paying Attention to Nelson Line

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New York Islanders

It has now been 10 games for the threesome of Zach Parise, Mathew Barzal, and Oliver Wahlstrom. At times, the newest New York Islanders trio has been dangerous but has produced just three goals in 10 games. The attention has been on the duo of Mathew Barzal and Oliver Wahlstrom, yet Zach Parise has scored two of the three goals.

Following their 10th game together, in which Zach Parise scored the eventual game-winner against the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night, I asked the 37-year old veteran about his line.

“I think we’re working at it. We’ve had some games where I think we’ve had a lot of good chances, and some games I think we can be better,” Zach Parise said. “I mean, I think we’re learning. I think all three of us would like to spend some more time in the offensive zone, and I think that’s getting comfortable with each other.”

“I mean, you look at this line with Brock’s line there, the way they seem to support each other in the offensive zone,” Parise said. “That’s how they’re able to keep that sustained pressure, so I think that’s something that our line can pay attention to and get better at.”

The Barzal line first skated together in a game back on Mar. 13, in the New York Islanders 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks. It was a hot start for the line, as Mathew Barzal’s between-the-legs attempt went right to Zach Parise, who buried the loose puck to give the Islanders the early 1-0 lead over the Anaheim Ducks.

The line would go six games without lighting the lamp before Mathew Barzal and Oliver Wahlstrom connected for a goal, a sequence that should often occur between the two. Barzal dropped the puck to Wahlstrom, who picked his spot and beat Thomas Greiss blocker side in the New York Islanders 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Mar. 24.

This goal should be a typical play for this duo, a play we just have not seen enough of.

And then, in game 10, Zach Parise scored his second alongside Mathew Barzal and Oliver Wahlstrom, with Barzal recording the secondary assist on the play to give the New York Islanders a 4-1 lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night.

Over the 10 games together, the trio has only outshot their opponents five times. Despite that, this line did a strong job early of not allowing any goals against, with zero through their first seven games together. But over this past weekend, in back-to-back losses to the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Barzal line was on the ice for a goal against in each game.

The trio has played a total of 96:31 minutes together and have outscored their opponents 3-2. They own a Corsi For Percentage of 49.78 percent, a number that needs to be higher with a player like Mathew Barzal on it.

Corsi For Percentage (CF%) is the sum of shots on goal, missed shots, and blocked shots over the shots against, missed shots against, and blocked shots against at equal strength per Puck Pedia.

The biggest thing for Barry Trotz, when combining Barzal and Wahlstrom, was that he did not want to see trading chances. Yet, we have seen that so far.

The trio has outshot their opponents by a slim margin, 66-65. The chances have been there as they have an Expected Goals For (xGF) of 5.85, but the chances have also been there for their opponents, with an Expected Goals Against (xGA) of 5.85.

The trio has out-chanced their opponents, but by a slim 56-51 margin.

Getting back to the Barzal-Wahlstrom duo for a moment, they have not been particularly strong together. If we take Zach Parise away from the line, Barzal and Wahlstrom have a CF% of 28.57 in 10:28 TOI.

They have been outshot 12-3, outscored 2-0, and only have an xGF of 0.26.

That’s not what the doctor ordered when Trotz put Barzal and Wahlstrom together.

But like any line that first forms, there needs to be a grace period allowed for chemistry to brew. It has not been the hottest of starts for the line, and Barzal and Wahlstrom need to do more on a nightly basis as Parise has driven the line.