Coming back from missing out on eleven games, Mathew Barzal really made his presence known out on the ice. Some believed that he would either have a slow start or would need some time to get back into the swing of things, but that was not the case for him at all.
At 12:35 into the first, Barzal got the first goal of the game by receiving the feed from Josh Bailey then shooting the puck in top corner on Buffalo goaltender Malcolm Subban. Throughout the first especially, Barzal was all over the puck getting shot after shot on net. He had a close chance earlier in the first on the Islanders first power play of the game, however Subban was able to get a glove on it. Even just before he managed to get on the boards, he swept in front of the net, got the puck on his backhand and tried to beat Subban to the far side. Subban however, denied this opportunity and Barzal fell to the ice in utter disbelief.
Though his perseverance paid off for him. He went on to finish the game with a total of one goal and two assists on Anders Lee and Noah Dobson’s goals, which helped earn him first star of the game.
When asked about Barzal, Coach Trotz stateted, “I think he had eight shots tonight…He can shoot the puck, it’s really something that he’s worked on since year one that was our year end meeting.” He continued on to say, “I thought he could shoot the puck a lot better than he did his first year, change his stick as you see and he’s shooting it more and that’s what you want. He can shoot it hard. That first goal is an indication I mean he put it right where he needed to put it, we had a great view of it.”
It’s very apparent that Barzal is great with his stick. Looking back to last March against the Sabres, he scored one of the most talked about goals in the league when he shot the puck between his legs and right past goaltender Carter Hutton to tie the game. I guess there’s something about playing Buffalo that makes Barzal turn the heat up.
Hopefully the fire that ignited for him last night sticks around for the remainder of the season. He was a real dominant force for the Islanders and was able to get many great opportunities on net which would be a force for New York in later matchups as well. In addition to his skill set being so competitive for the Islanders, New York themselves being able to play such a disciplined game as they did against Buffalo would also be of major help.
The Islanders faced a penalty kill in the first that did some damage for them as the Sabres were able to tie the game at the conclusion of the period. However, when returning back to full strength, New York managed to stay out of the box for the majority of the remainder of the game, with the exception being Casey Cizikias at the very end with just under two minutes left.
Having kept themselves at either five-on-five or on the one man advantage for a large majority of the game allowed them to reduce their time in the defensive zone, ultimately helping them produce the 4-1 win and hold Buffalo at one.
“I like the way our special teams responded, we had a power play goal that matched their power play goal. Then we had a big kill when we needed it, just to keep them far enough away.” Stated Coach Barry Trotz.
Moving forward, the Islanders are going to need to keep the type of energy and play that they exhibited last night in order to win more of their matchup, something they’ve had some trouble with this season. In addition, if Barzal can stay hot on the ice, that is a large factor in producing more and more scoring opportunities for the Islanders in order to push them in the right direction of success.