This season, Kieffer Bellows had dressed in four of the New York Islanders first five games alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Ross Johnston on the third line. Bellows had shown life, but ultimately, like every other Islander, was struggling to create offense.
After being scratched for Michael Dal Colle in the 2-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils Sunday, Bellows found himself back in the lineup on Tuesday night in the loss to the Washington Capitals.
Before the game, the New York Islanders placed second-line winger Anthony Beauvillier on Injury Reserve after sustaining an upper-body injury in Sunday’s loss. Head coach Barry Trotz had plenty of options to fill the hole but elected to give Bellows the opportunity. Despite the way the game went for the Islanders, Bellows looked strong in his limited minutes.
In 11:04 TOI, the 22-year old recorded two shots on goal, two hits, and a block. He was responsible with the puck, failing to record a single turnover.
Bellows was well aware of his role as a top-six forward and knew that he needed to generate offense whenever he had the chance. He started his night off on the right foot, or skate rather.
On his opening shift, Bellows found himself the lone Islander as he crossed into the offensive zone. Instead of dumping the puck around the boards, he quickly threw a backhander on goal which forced Washington netminder Vitek Vanecek to make a save.
On his next shift a couple of minutes later, Bellows put his body on the line blocking a Lars Eller shot.
With 6:04 to play in the first, Bellows laid a hard hit on Jonas Siegenthaler to the right of Vanecek. His ability to finish his checks had been on display this season, and it was good to see him continue to do so.
After one period of play, Bellows had racked up a shot on goal, a block and a hit as he demonstrated awareness in both zones.
Less than three minutes into the second period, Bellows came around the Washington net with speed and precision before wristing a puck on goal. This led to a big rebound off Vanecek, but the scoring opportunity went by the boards. Again, early in the period, he had no hesitation to throw the puck on net.
Bellows recorded his second hit of the game a couple of minutes later (16:13 left on the clock), this time on Washington’s top defenseman John Carlson.
Later in the frame, Bellows was the first to a loose puck in the defensive zone, as he broke into the neutral zone with time and space before getting the puck in deep. He made the smart hockey play and allowed his team to make a much-needed change.
With 7:19 gone in the middle frame, the Islanders headed to the powerplay. Bellows slotted into Beauvillier’s spot on the second unit, where he did not look out of place. This decision by Trotz displayed confidence in the young player, as well as trust, something not easily earned from his head coach.
Early in the final frame, Bellows turned on the jets, as he backchecked hard to counteract a Washington rush. For a player deemed a “liability” at times in his own zone, he was nothing close to that on Tuesday.
A little over five minutes into the third period, Bellows continued to show his confidence. After a pass by Josh Bailey met Bellows in stride, the young winger broke through the offensive zone and elected to deke past Carlson, rather than dump the puck in.
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) January 27, 2021
Despite failing to record a shot on goal, Bellows again made an effort to create offense, exhibiting the offensive skill that he has in his arsenal.
He was greeted by a pat on the back from one of his coaches when he returned to the bench after that play.
Due to Leo Komarov’s five-minute major penalty at 10:59 of the third period and the tied game, Bellows saw limited ice time in the second half of the third period.
There will be learning curves as Bellows tries to find his scoring touch at the NHL level, but this game showed us he had the right ideas.
With Beauvillier missing at least the next four games (mandatory 7 days for IR), Bellows showed no reason that he should not be back in there on the second line when the puck drops on Thursday. We have seen Bellows’ confidence grow each game and last night was the first time we saw any threat from him offensively. He made quick moves in the offensive zone to throw off defenders, before making crisp passes to his teammates.
There was not much talk about Bellows on the NBCSN broadcast and none whatsoever in the post-game press conferences. When a young player is not talked about much in a game, that usually means they are doing the right things.