The face of the Islanders seems to have finally got going.
The New York Islanders are currently in a complete mess. They were hit hard with a COVID-19 outbreak and it took far too long for the NHL to postpone their games.
That along with long-term injuries to some of their most important and best players has resulted in one of the team’s worst stretches in franchise history.
The Islanders are on a three-game point streak, but have dropped 11 games in a row. In such a competitive division as the Metro, the playoffs are growing to be more and more unlikely for New York.
An important contributing factor of the Islanders’ struggles is lack of production from the majority of their top guys. The most glaring one? Center Mathew Barzal.
Barzal is the face of the Islanders as well as their best player. He’s one of the most talented centers in the game and much of New York’s recent success over the past few seasons can be attributed to him.
Unfortunately, Barzal’s start to the 2020-21 season has been pretty terrible. He isn’t scoring nearly as much as he usually does and has played quite poorly in his own end.
If the Islanders turn a corner within the coming days, Barzal doing the same will be a reason why. And so far so good.
Player of the week: C Mathew Barzal
vs. SJS: 1 G
at DET: 2 A
vs. CHI: 2 A
Average Game Score: 1.44
Average defensive impact: 0.32
With a goal and five points in the team’s three games this week, Barzal was New York’s best player.
TOY. DEPARTMENT. pic.twitter.com/1aGZ1cjh1f
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 3, 2021
In the past, we’ve come to recognize that Barzal is a fantastic scorer, but is arguably even more dangerous as a playmaker and creator. He scored just one goal this week, but notched four important assists.
This is exactly how Barry Trotz and the Islanders are going to need their superstar to play, game in and game out. The top-six and power play are not the same when Barzal is struggling, as we’ve seen for most of the season.
Barzal has looked pretty awesome alongside the young RW Oliver Wahlstrom and it’s almost guaranteed that Trotz is going to ride that train for at least a few more games. It might be a great ideal for all the parties involved.
Barzal’s great play this week is incredibly encouraging and should be something Islanders fans are excited about. The hope is that he’s caught fire and won’t cool down anytime soon.
Honorable Mention #1: LHD Adam Pelech
at DET: 1 A
Average Game Score: 0.85
Average defensive impact: 0.97
It isn’t much of a surprise, but Pelech was the team’s second-best player this week. Pelech is the team’s best defenseman, one of the best defensive-defensemen in the league, and has arguably been the Islanders’ best player this season.
We saw the Islanders play several games without him and it wasn’t pretty. Pelech is one of New York’s most important players and is a key reason why they’re one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Pelech showed off his offensive ability in the team’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, recording his third assist of the season, and was solid in his own zone.
He was a top-three player for New York in two of their three games and played a big part in preventing the team’s opponents from scoring at a high rate this week. The Islanders really miss Ryan Pulock, but Pelech is doing well as the team’s top blueliner.
Honorable Mention #2: RW Cal Clutterbuck
at DET: 1 G
Average Game Score: 0.3
Average defensive impact: 0.22
Last week’s player of the week, Clutterbuck was even better in Week 8. He wasn’t as solid defensively, but played an overall better game and even scored a nifty short-handed goal against the Red Wings.
A look at Clutterbuck's shorthanded goal! pic.twitter.com/aaIf3xOJcv
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 5, 2021
As we’ve discussed, Clutterbuck is an important player for the Islanders. He’s one-third of what’s usually the best fourth line in hockey and is one of the team’s most important penalty killers.
When fans look back at this dark time of the season, they’ll remember Clutterbuck as being one of the sole bright spots.