It’s Mathew Barzal’s skills as an offensive playmaker and elite skater that earned him a second straight All-Star Game appearance this weekend. But the top-line center knows the Islanders are not a “juggernaut offensively.”
Conforming his natural instincts to the structure Barry Trotz has implemented in his two seasons as Islanders coach is still an adjustment.
And Trotz benched Barzal in the third period of Tuesday night’s 4-2 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden for all but one, 40-second shift. Trotz said it was a coach’s decision based on Barzal not playing within the team framework.
“That was a good example, exactly,” Trotz said. “One hundred percent, today.”
Barzal is the Islanders’ leading scorer with 17 goals and 25 assists, on pace to surpass his career high of 22 goals as a rookie. He will participate for the Metropolitan Division in the All-Star Game festivities Friday and Saturday in St. Louis.
“I’d love to score every night,” Barzal said before the game. “I try to score every night. I try to score every shift, really. I would like to score more. You just have to adjust. That’s our system. That’s our structure and it wins hockey games for us, so far. Would I trade 15 more points, 20 more points to be out of the playoffs? Absolutely not. We’re just trying to play meaningful hockey in April and May. That’s what gets me excited.”
He is due a big raise this offseason after competing a three-year, $2.775 million entry-level deal.
“You worry about contracts after the season,” Barzal said. “You want to be in the playoffs. That’s ultimately where you show yourself as a player.
“We’re not a juggernaut offensively, that’s just how it is,” Barzal added. “That’s how it’s been the last two years.”