The New York Islanders are going back to the Conference Semifinals. New York wins Game 6 by the score of 6-2, winning the series 4-2. They had to do it the hard way by coming back and winning three games of the series. Just like in the first round where the Islanders trailed the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1, New York found themselves in a similar situation after Game 3 against Boston. The Islanders never wilted from their system under head coach Barry Trotz. Leading the way was the second line of Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey, and Anthony Beauvillier. Their impact, especially Nelson’s was felt in the final two games of the series.
Brock Nelson Impact Felt With Series In The Balance
Even though Mathew Barzal has started to pick up his play for the Islanders, New York is getting offence from their second and third lines. We have already outlined how much of an impact Kyle Palmieri, who is up to seven goals in these playoffs, and his linemates of Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Travis Zajac have made this postseason. And while that line continued to play well, especially in Game 6 getting goals from Zajac and Palmieri, it was the play of the second line that stood out in the final two games of the series.
The most productive line for the Islanders this postseason has been the second line of the Islanders. Through the 12 games this team has played, the line combined for 34 points. Those numbers are really good considering the players left in the playoffs.
Even though the Islanders have been struggling with goal-scoring these players have not. Beauvillier has four goals, Nelson has seven goals and Bailey has five goals. However, of the seven goals for Nelson, three of those goals came in the final two games of the series in some of the biggest moments for the team. After the Bruins tied the game at 2-2 in Game 5, the Islanders scored four straight goals with Nelson scoring the fifth goal for the Islanders. The Bruins battled back to rally to make it a 5-4 game. If it was not for Nelson’s goal, the Islanders might have lost that game. And therefore might not have been in a position to close out the series in Game 6.
Then in Game 6, Nelson broke a 1-1 tie scoring the next two Islanders’ goals. His second goal of the game held up as the game-winning goal. So in back-to-back games, Nelson got the game-winning goals. That says something about the player wanting the puck in the biggest games. And with no Anders Lee, Nelson has been the driving force for the Islanders’ offence.
It is All About Chemistry With The Islanders
The Islanders could not get back to the NHL’s Final Four without chemistry. Every line is put together by Barry Trotz for a reason. Nelson, Beauvillier, and Bailey play a fast-paced style with each playing feeding off the other. It reminds me a lot of the A-Line of Jason Arnott, Petr Sykora, and Patrik Elias the New Jersey Devils had so many years ago. These Islanders players know each other moves so well.
Without Beauvillier, who is an underrated player and Bailey, Nelson would not be in a position to be able to score back-to-back game-winning goals. Not only can these guys score goals, but can pass the puck as well. Beauvillier has seven assists, Bailey with seven assists, and Nelson with five assists. So these guys are not afraid to dish the puck to each other. That is why the Islanders are so successful.
Playing “Boring Hockey” Wins Again
Players are not afraid to play a team-first game and put individual statistics aside to play good team defence. And it was on display again in Game 6. After the Bruins scored to make it 4-2 early in the third period, the Islanders played lockdown defence throughout the neutral zone as the Bruins did not register a shot for the final 15 minutes of the game. And while everyone does not like the neutral zone trap as they see it as boring hockey, the system clearly wins. It is an effective game plan, especially in the playoffs. Every team plays a form of it when they have a lead. The Islanders remain undefeated after leading after two periods in the playoffs. The Islanders are back to the Conference Semifinals so something is working under Barry Trotz.
It will be interesting to see how the Tampa Bay Lightning and Islanders match up in the next round. But one thing is for sure, the Islanders will be ready to play them under head coach Barry Trotz. Not only that, Brock Nelson will play a big role for the Islanders if they want to advance further.
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