Mathew Barzal has been and is currently on fire. Whenever he touches the puck, you stop eating popcorn or sipping your beverage to see what will happen next. Whether on a regular shift or in overtime, he has factored into some big moments for the New York Islanders this season. In last night’s 7-2 domination over their rival New York Rangers, our Isles saw Barzal put the league on notice yet again. His 2 goals and 3 assists (and +5 rating) galvanized the Isles’ attack at MSG and the Rangers could do nothing about it. Per Eric Hornick, “Barzal also regained the lead in rookie points from Brock Boeser (44-40). It was his 4th multi-assist game and 9th multi-point game. In the last 21 years, only one Islander rookie (John Tavares -30 in 2009/10) has had more assists than Barzal.” Barzal is the first Islander, ever, to score 5 points at MSG. Is this thing on?
Mathew Barzal is the only player in the NHL, rookie or otherwise, to have 2-5 point games under his belt so far this season. Per Mike Morreale, “NYR coach Alain Vigneault: "Barzal’s line just dominated Mika’s [Mika Zibanejad] line the whole game. I had three of my top players there and they were dominated the whole game." Anthony Beauvillier (+5 in the game) had 2 goals and an assist in last night’s win. After a 3-game stint in the AHL, Beauvillier once again made a statement to stick around with the big club. And Barzal likes his friend’s game, “He's bringing his effort every night, that's the biggest thing," said Barzal. "He's playing exactly how he's supposed to play, winning battles, burying his chances which is great and doing a great job playing 200 feet. He's been really easy to adjustment there with Ladd being out." Beauvillier seems to be feeling it as well. Here’s what he had to say about the Isles first game back in action, “It’s always fun to play the Rangers, especially here, and it’s been a good game for us. Coming back from the break and just build off that last game against New Jersey. We played a great game." Line mate Jordan Eberle had a career high 4 assists (Hornick) in the game. Prince (1st goal since 12/16), Hickey (2nd of Ssn) and Clutterbuck (4 goals in last 4 games) also scored goals in the game.
The Isles huge second period rush added 3 goals to the scoresheet in the first seven minutes and broke the confidence of the Rangers, eventually getting Ondrej Pavelec pulled from the home net after goal number five. 9 different Islanders got at least a point and Scott Mayfield had 2 points (career high) on the night. It was the Isles 3rd straight win vs the Rangers at MSG and 5th straight overall. Jaroslav Halak was huge (now 16-7-0 vs Rangers) for the Islanders and stopped mounting pressure by the Rangers after they forced the tie early in the game. Halak is 13-12-0 on the season.
Injuries have affected the Isles a few times this season. Several key players have gone down and that meant prospects were given an opportunity to fill their roles. The Isles recalled Anthony Beauvillier and Michael Dal Colle on an emergency basis from BPT. Along with D, Sebastian Aho to face the New York Rangers. Dal Colle looked comfortable and Aho continues to do what’s asked of him in relief on the Isles blue line. With Casey Cizikas leaving last night’s game after an un-penalized slash to the wrist, Sound Tigers’ scoring leader, Tanner Fritz (37 pts) was recalled again from Bridgeport.
On the other side of the prospect coin, Josh Ho-Sang seems to be souring on his most recent time back down with the Sound Tigers. Ho-Sang always plays hard and has all the talent in the world, but his maturity and attitude have been called into question by critics. This was the main reason the Islanders were able to get a player of his considerable talent level with the 28th overall pick in 2014. Ho-Sang is now getting scratched in the AHL. A place where he has been sent down to learn a lesson, re-ignite his fire and ply his play-making craft like so many who came before him.
“When you start the year in the NHL and then get scratched in the AHL in the same year, it’s kind of … it’s kind of mentally tough,” Ho-Sang told The New York Post. Ho-Sang may not be meshing with Sound Tigers coach, Brent Thompson. “I don’t think anybody can break my confidence,” he said. “But it’s definitely put in a place where it’s not very good. There’s certain things I can do on the ice to remind myself of what I am and who I am. But it’s just tough when you have people getting on you and sometimes when everyone’s talking to you about the negative, you may look at yourself negatively.”
On Ho-Sang, Thompson had this to say, “He’s a baby, he’s immature and he’s got a lot of growing to do. I’m excited. The upside of him is outstanding. He worked hard today, he’s been working really hard. We all make mistakes, we all have bad games. It’s how do we respond from those and what do we learn from them? Every piece of this season for Josh, with us, is a development piece. It’s just going to be a longer process with some people.” In this writer’s opinion, “He’s a baby” may not be the best quote or sound bite to put out there with a major NY paper. Isles fans certainly remember the rift that started to form between the Islanders organization and Nino Neidereitter. It engineered the talented prospect to be traded to the Minnesota Wild for Cal Clutterbuck. No one knows what will happen with Ho-Sang and when his next NHL call-up will be, but the work will need to be there along with the message sent by the organization.
Per Josh Ho-Sang, “Yeah, I’m only young, but I’m burning years off my NHL career. It sucks,” he said. “You want to be up top. For me, I didn’t look at it this way until this year. I was looking forward to hopefully my first [full] NHL season.”
He added, “I enjoy playing up there and I find that when I’m up there, I’ve had quite a bit of success,” Ho-Sang said. “I think I’ve had more success up there than hardship. But they want what they want.”
I love the prospect of Ho-Sang rejoining the Islanders but dues have to be paid when asked by management and the quickest way back up is to prove your doubters wrong without speaking out or losing your cool to a reporter.
For nothing else but an attempt to draw a parallel, please indulge me.
Coach, Doug Weight on Beau’s attitude and game, "Anthony has been a different person," Weight said of Beauvillier since his return. "Just his face, his confidence and just in hindsight, speaking with him this morning he said you were right, this was the greatest thing for me."
Here’s what Anthony Beauvillier himself had to say on being sent down to the AHL, "It happened to Bails [Josh Bailey] and a lot of Hall of Famers played in the American League as well," Beauvillier said. "It's helped me a lot just finding my game a little bit more, how to have success. No one wants to hear that, but it was good for me to go down there."
Back to the main point of all of this.
The Metro remains super tight. The Isles have a shootout win vs NJ and a big, tight defensive and road scoring win vs the NYR in their last 2 opportunities. A point separates 5 teams (Rangers through Carolina) with little relief in sight. It’s all about the coming head-to-head match-ups and which team will rise above the others as the playoff push into spring approaches. It’s going to take a full team effort without any nights off. And that includes everyone on and off the ice.
Per Arthur Staple, “Isles announce Tanner Fritz has been recalled and Andrew Ladd (upper) is on IR.”
Josh Bailey and Johnny Boychuk still out. No update on Casey Cizikas after being slashed on the wrist in last names game vs. the Rangers. Per Andy Graziano, “Weight not optimistic at all about Cizikas, said doesn't look good and won't make trip Monday, opportunity there for guys to step up.”
Per NHL PR, “THIS DATE IN 1988: Denis Potvin of the @NYIslanders became the first defenseman in NHL history to score 300 career goals.”
Sound Tigers Notes:
Christopher Gibson is now 14-7-2 on the season with 2 shutouts.
Toews Undergoes Successful Surgery.