Wins have been hard to come by for the New York Islander as of late. Their first road trip of the season saw them go win-less, picking up just two points in five games (0-3-2).
While the struggles continued as the trip went on, head coach Barry Trotz looked to steer the team in the right direction. Besides making in-game line changes, we saw two new faces in the lineup on Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Dmytro Timashov manned the left-wing on the second line while Austin Czarnik played right-wing on the third line.
While Timashov did not stand out, it was impossible to ignore the play of Czarnik. Over his four years at the NHL level, the 28-year old has struggled to maintain consistent playing time. He has played in only 122 NHL games, split between the Boston Bruins and the Calgary Flames.
After sitting on the taxi squad for the first eight games of the season, he finally cracked the lineup and made the most of his opportunity.
In 14:12 TOI, the Michigan-native registered one shot on goal, one block, a giveaway, and a takeaway. However, his stats only tell one side of the story.
As the losses have piled up, the Islanders had struggled to bring the proper mental state needed to come out on the winning side of close games. Barry Trotz hoped that Czarnik could light a flame under his burnt-out team, since he was a player that was itching to get into a lineup and make a difference.
“I brought him in to give us that little energy and that little bit of speed,” Trotz said on Tuesday.
The Islanders have lacked energy, with the fourth failing to do their job consistently. The Islanders have struggled to gain momentum, and the little times they have owned it, they have been unable to maintain it.
Even with ‘Fastest Skater Winner’ Mat Barzal and the lightning-quick Anthony Beauvillier on the roster, the Islanders are not considered a fast team by any means. However, with Beauvillier on IR with a lower-body injury, Czarnik gave his team that element, and while it may not have impacted the scoreboard directly, it was indeed impactful.
Austin Czarnik is fast not only with the puck on his stick but without as well. Whether it was chasing down puck carriers or racing to loose pucks, he showed his coaching staff and teammates how hard he was willing to work to help his team.
Czarnik saw power-play minutes (5:21) while appearing on the top power-play unit throughout Sunday’s loss. He registered his lone shot on goal with the man-advantage and won an offensive-zone draw against Claude Giroux.
“He did a good job on the powerplay, he really did,” said Barry Trotz. “He made some good decisions.”
During the second power play for the Islanders, Philadelphia saw themselves on an odd-man rush while down a man. Given the way the Islanders have played, a short-handed goal against would have been a nightmare.
But Czarnik turned on the jets and he made a great effort to backcheck and break up the rush. The Islanders would leave the ice down 2-0 after one, and despite knotting the game up in the second period, a three-goal deficit early could have put the game out of reach for this struggling Islanders team.
Austin Czarnik was also awarded 1:05 minutes on the penalty kill.
Despite not having scored a goal or mustered an assist in the loss, he positively affected the offense. At even strength, he owned a Corsi For % of 66.7 and a Fenwick For % of 77.8. These stats show that the Islanders controlled the puck more often than not when Czarnik was on the rink. He was also not on the rink for any of the Flyers’ four goals.
One could compare Czarnik and his style to that of Casey Cizikas, the Islanders’ fourth-line center. Both forecheck hard and try to create energy when their skates hit the ice.
Tuesday, Trotz stated that he would not be as disruptive with his lineup moving forward.
“I think as we go along here, I’m going to have to settle into what I perceive as three and two-thirds of a line. And then sort of just put in a guy in and a guy out on need after that,” Trotz said.
So what does this mean for Czarnik?
Given his play on Sunday, he is deserving of another opportunity when the puck drops on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. While the 22-year old Kieffer Bellows and the 20-year old Oliver Wahlstrom may be the front runners on the third line, Czarnik will get his chances throughout the remaining 47 games if he can play consistently.
He just needs to make the most of his opportunities.