TAMPA, Fla. — It was yet another thing of beauty from Mathew Barzal on Thursday night at Barclays Center.
He fielded a flip pass from Andrew Ladd with his glove, dropped the puck to his feet and took off, beating several Hurricanes down the ice to create a two-on-one.
Barzal, who has been a terrific creator and distributor on offense, then snapped the puck past Scott Darling to open the scoring in a 6-4 Islanders win. It was only his fourth goal of the season, but it sure was pretty.
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“I was actually looking for the pass there,” he said afterward. That sentence encapsulates the one aspect of Barzal’s game that might need to change after the torrid start to his NHL career.
With 60 shot attempts and 37 shots on goal through 18 games, Barzal is sixth on the Isles in both categories, so he’s hardly shy about shooting the puck. But he has been able to create so many good scoring chances with his quickness and ability to shake defenders that he might have a few more goals if he weren’t trying to be so selfless.
“It’ll just be beneficial for him, for his linemates,” Doug Weight said. “He’s feeling out the NHL game right now. He’s a visionary player — I can’t throw stones from my glass house since I don’t think I ever shot on a two-on-one. People are going to start playing that a bit. He has some opportunities where he can rip the puck and he’ll have to start looking to do that. He has the ability to do it, too.”
Barzal leads the Isles with nine primary assists, according to Natural Stat Trick. He’s second among Isles forwards (behind only linemate Jordan Eberle) in generating shot attempts, with the Isles getting 56.7 percent of the shots with the 20-year-old center on the ice.
“I’ve got some pretty good shooters with me in Ebs and Ladd, so I do want to try and set those guys up,” Barzal said. “The coaches have been on me a little to try and add the shot to my game and think shot a little more.”
Even with that, there hardly are complaints. Barzal’s three-point night Thurs day gave him 17 points in the last 13 games. He’s dangerous every time he’s on the ice.
“We certainly need Barzy to bring it every night,” Weight said, “and he’s been pretty consistent.”