With his incredible speed and amazing puck work, Mathew Barzal is easily one of the strongest plays on the Islanders roster. These skills have been demonstrated by him throughout this season with the example of his two notable goals on the Buffalo Sabres on March 6th and the Washington Capitals on April 1st. The Capitals game alone for him was notorious as he had an incredible five-point game where he recorded three goals and two assists which also earned him the title of the NHL’s First Star of the Week.
His third hat trick goal that game came off a shot he batted into the net from mid air.
Currently, Barzal ranks near or at the top of the stat sheet for the Isles. He holds the top spot in assists (24) and points (37) and is third in goals with 13 this season which puts him just under Jordan Eberle’s 14 and Brock Nelson’s team-leading 15.
Barzal started off the season slow only recording nine goals in 24 games. His stats suggest him as the type of player who passes the puck to create a better chance on net versus just taking the shot himself. I disagree with this a little, as he knows when he has a lane to take where he feels comfortable enough that it would result in a goal. Heading into the playoffs, this is going to be a strong feature that will allow him to shine even more than his performance in the bubble last summer.
Barzal came out with five goals and twelve assists in the Isles’ run to the Conference finals. He had taken quite the beating in the Philly series as he came out with a black eye as Claude Giroux’s stick had done underneath his visor and up to his eye. Regardless of this injury, he remained a factor offensively. Although he played well in throughout the playoffs, head coach Barry Trotz believed that there was another level Barzal could get too.
“Usually on every team, some of your top players grow into that role. I don’t think he’s there yet, but I think the process has started that he eventually, with a few more years and more experience, he’ll be a real big piece of this hockey team.” Trotz said a while back.
Can we expect to see more of him this playoff run? I believe so.
As this regular season is coming to a close, Barzal has grown more and more by proving his value as an unpredictable player. His capabilities have grown by leaps and bounds.
“He takes huge strides in his game every year,” teammate Matt Martin said earlier this season. “He has the ability, with his skating and talent level, to be one of the best players in this game. He wants to be that. You can see that in his work ethic. But he’s still so young, he’s coming into his prime. Every game, you’re seeing him be more and more dangerous with the puck
Moving into the playoffs, I would not be surprised to see him playing a more harder game. It has worked well for him in the past to use his body and knock players off his back as he speeds down the ice. This is going to transition well for the Islanders and allow them to make a deep run since he also has a great supporting player on his wing with Eberle. Together the two use the chances they have to generate those necessary goals.
This will be the third straight year for Barzal in the playoffs. With how he’s continued to evolve, his star should take another step forward once he’s front and center on said stage.
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