It wasn’t exactly against the cream of the NHL crop, or even against the Devils’ NHL regulars. But Mathew Barzal’s power-play goal late in the first period of Monday’s 3-0 Islanders win over New Jersey at Barclays Center was one of those eye-popping moves that the Isles haven’t seen from one of their own in a long while.
Barzal took a routine drop pass from John Tavares at his own blue line and just took off. He raced up the left wing, blazed past Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy and flipped a shot past Keith Kinkaid, a unique power-play goal that few others could score.
Barzal was perhaps a surprise addition to the first power-play unit that Doug Weight and his staff formed for the Isles’ first special-teams work of camp on Saturday. Tavares, Nick Leddy and Anders Lee were holdovers from last season; Jordan Eberle was an assumed addition after his trade from Edmonton.
But Barzal on the first unit and Josh Ho-Sang on the second could provide the Islanders’ power play with the sort of threats they haven’t had the past few seasons, when the power play was almost always less than the sum of its parts. The last season the Islanders power play was top 10 in the league was 2011-12 and they were 28th last season, converting at just a 14.9 percent clip.
“Especially with their skill set, you use the word dynamic and it’s so quick,” Weight said. “Both of them have the playmaking ability and the vision to make those plays. I think you found a couple times today that they found some guys who maybe weren’t ready for it and that’s something we’ve got to get used to. Those guys are distributors and they’re going to find the open man.”
Barzal leads the team with three goals this preseason, his third training camp. He’s been terrific in all three since the Islanders traded Griffin Reinhart to the Oilers for the 16th pick in the 2015 draft and snagged Barzal. He narrowly missed making the team as an 18-year-old and got into two games only last season before being sent back to juniors.
Weight was asked on Monday if Barzal had done enough at this point to make the team and the coach was succinct. “Yes,” Weight said.
Barzal isn’t taking anything for granted. “Anything can happen, for right now we worked on it a little bit in practice and first game together I thought it was really, really good,” Barzal said of the power play. “We created a lot of chances and the goals are going to come when you’re putting up three or four shots each power play.”