As the New York Islanders head to Pittsburgh for Game 3 on Sunday, Jordan Eberle has stood tall in leading them to a 2-0 series lead.
The 27-year old forward had recorded four straight 20-goal seasons. In his first season on Long Island, Eberle proved to be a consistent sniper, scoring 25 goals and collecting 59 points for an offense that was one of the leagues most potent.
However, the Islanders ability as a team to stop the opponent from scoring prevented overall success. In comes, Barry Trotz for the 2018-19 season and Eberle along with the rest of the explosive Islanders had to concede offensive stats for better team results. To make matters worse, the player he was brought in to complement left via free agency.
This season, Eberle tied a career-low set in the strike season of 2012-13 when he totaled just 37 points. His 19 goals scored were the lowest total since scoring 16 that same season in 30 fewer games.
Despite his decline in overall production, Eberle saw his team improve by 13 wins and 23 points to post the fifth-best record in the NHL. This is an important stretch for the soon-to-be 29-year old, who is an unrestricted free agent when the season ends. He easily could have whined and complained about the Islanders costing him his chance at financial security by causing his numbers to decline with their new “system.”
However, Eberle has used the postseason as his showcase. While he might be pricing himself out of the Islanders comfort zone, he has raised his game when his teammates need him the most.
Through the first two games of the Islanders first-round series against the Penguins, Eberle is tied with three other players for the NHL lead with four points. Eberle is also one of 10 players who has lit the lamp twice in the 2019 NHL postseason.
Thanks to Eberle, Mat Barzal (three points, all assists), Josh Bailey (two goals including the game-winner in overtime in Game 1) and goaltender Robin Lehner (.948 save percentage, 1.93 GAA) the Islanders have taken their first 2-0 series lead since defeating the Edmonton Oilers 4-0 in the 1983 Stanley Cup Finals.
History is on the side of the Islanders who have won their last 11 best-of-7 series in which they held a 2-0 lead. However, on the flip side, the Penguins have show resiliency when facing such a deficit, rallying to win five of their last 10 series they have fallen behind 2-0.
If the New York Islanders are going to make significant noise in the 2019 postseason, they need Jordan Eberle and his teammates to continue with the inspired play they have shown so far.