We already linked to this in today’s Bits post, but it’s news worth noting on its own. Islanders prospect Mathew Barzal, who had been out of his junior team’s lineup since March 8th with a mystery illness, returned to help Seattle take a 1-0 lead in its WHL semifinal series against Everett.
Barzal scored the game’s first goal and assisted on Donovan Nuels’ game winner as the Thunderbirds beat the Silvertips 3-2 on Friday night. Everett had tied the game with 1:38 left in the third, but Nuels shoveled home Barzal’s rebound with about a minute left to give Seattle a dramatic win and an early lead in the series.
Despite missing a month with a sickness that remains undisclosed (more on that in a bit), Barzal didn’t miss a beat, scoring the type of slick, stupid goal that helped him get named the league’s Western Conference Player of the Year. Here’s the second period goal that opened the scoring.
Via Andy Eide of My Northwest.com:
For not having played in so long, Barzal didn’t show too many signs of rust. He played a lot of minutes and ended the night with a goal and an assist. He said it was hard to sit out and miss so much time but watching the team win made it a little easier.
“It’s tough,” he said about the layoff. “The whole staff has been really positive and supportive. Obviously the guys have been playing some good hockey so that always makes it easier.”
On the game-winner, Barzal deftly eluded Habs first rounder Noah Juulsen above the circles and used another defender as a screen to send a long wrister towards goalie Carter Hart. Nuels was there to bang home the rebound over Hart’s shoulder.
Barzal had an insane 79 points in 41 games for Seattle this year on 10 goals and 69 assists. And that was after spending a month or so with the Islanders with whom he played two games after training camp. The Thunderbirds swept Tri-City in the first round without Barzal but with him back, look like a serious threat again, although key forward Ryan Gropp and goalie Rylan Toth remain out.
As for that illness, the an official diagnosis remains classified, for some reason. Maybe there’s some Umbrella Corporation/T-Virus shenanigans going on.
There was a lot of speculation as to what the nature of Barzal’s illness was. It was reported in some places that he had the mumps while other’s suggested he had mono. When asked, he smiled and said “no comment.”
Zombie outbreak or not, it’s great to see Barzal back doing Barzal things. Reminder that, depending on whose season ends when, Barzal could be moved up to the AHL or even NHL this spring. But for now, everyone’s got their hands full.