The things that Mathew Barzal can do on the ice can surely take people’s breath away sometimes.
But Barzal, as mesmerizing as he can be to watch, is hardly a one-man team.
In fact, while Barzal was held off the scoresheet in Game 1 of the Islanders’ first-round playoff win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday, third-liners Kyle Palmieri and Jean-Gabriel Pageau combined for three goals, including Palmieri’s OT winner. And second-line center Brock Nelson had the other goal, which had given the Isles a 3-2 lead with 4:10 remaining in regulation, before Kasperi Kapanen tied it with 3:39 remaining.
And while Barzal did lead the Islanders in scoring in the regular season, with 45 points in 55 games (17 goals, 28 assists), it was Nelson who led them in goals, with 18 in 56 games. And Nelson’s right wing, Josh Bailey, was second to Barzal in points, with 35 (eight goals, 27 assists).
On a balanced, four-line team like the Islanders, with Barzal as the headliner on the first line, a fourth-line generally regarded as perhaps the best in the NHL, and Pageau emerging as the key 2020 trade deadline pickup , it is possible that the second line of Nelson, Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier gets to fly under the radar most nights.
"I don't know if they're under the radar to our opponents any night,’’ Islanders coach Barry Trotz said Tuesday after the Islanders’ optional morning skate at PPG Paints Arena, before the teams faced off in Game 2 of their best-of-seven series.
"Maybe to the general public — I mean, you turn on the TV and and people will be amazed with some of the things that Barzy does, and he catches your eye because of his speed and skill,’’ Trotz said. "Brock is a little more subtle. Brock has a ton of skill and Bails is very intelligent, and Beau's got outstanding speed. And they're a real good line.
"But, you know, Barzy has that sort of ‘wow’ factor in some things that he can do. So he gets probably a little bit more attention by, I'll say just the general public. But I know our opponents, they really respect Nelson's line. I don't think they underrate it at all.’’
Bailey led the Islanders in scoring in the 2020 playoff run to the Eastern Conference finals with two goals and 18 assists for 20 points in 22 games. And Nelson (9-9-18) and Beauvillier (9-5-14) were tied for the team lead in goals and finished second and fourth in points.
And then there’s this: Nelson and Beauvillier each had three game-winning goals in the 2020 playoffs. And Bailey had one.
In 49 playoff games before Tuesday, the 6-4, 212-pound Nelson, 29, had scored 17 goals and 13 assists, with five game-winners. Bailey, 31, had played 53 career playoff games before Tuesday, registering 10-27-37, while Beauvillier, 23, had 10 goals and 17 points in his 31 career playoff games through Sunday.
On Tuesday, Nelson said he was happy to get his goal Sunday, after the line had been on ice for a couple goals against in the game.
"We had given a couple up, so we wanted to get one back,’’ he said.
He was asked if he thought his line might be overlooked sometimes.
"I'm not too sure how people view us,’’ he said. "We believe in each other, that we have a good mix of skill, and want to go out there and try to contribute offensively and be responsible. I think we did a good job of that and built our game a little bit last year, then [we're] trying to grow on that even more so this year.’’
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