To begin their first multi-game road trip, the Islanders were in a bit of trouble. But their best player was their best player tonight, and their goaltender had their back until they tightened up to their new, Barry Trotz-influenced-standards, helping them sweep the season series with the Winnipeg Jets and win their third in a row.
First Period: A Rough Start Bailed Out by Varlamov
The trend of getting outplayed in the first period continued this evening as the Jets poured on the shots and the chances, earning themselves two power plays in the process.
Semyon Varlamov, however, was there. Winnipeg threw 16 shots in his direction in the first 20 minutes and only conceded one goal, a power play snipe from Nikolaj Ehlers.
Honestly, he might have liked to have that one back, but I’d guess most goalies have a weak spot, and his seems to be high glove. Also, the way Johnny Boychuk went out to challenge Ehlers may have created a screen, so I’m hesitant to blame him. Especially with the way he slammed the door shut afterwards.
Second Period: A Somewhat Less Rough Frame Bailed Out by Barzal
Before the first commercial break, the Jets smothered the Islanders, and the period had the makings of being even worst than the first. Luckily, we have Mathew Barzal to look up to, to smile at, to adore.
The Islanders were awarded only one power play for the night, but they took advantage of it, and Mathew Barzal got to show off the cannon he’s been hiding with a beautiful one-timer off an equally beautiful cross-ice feed from Josh Bailey.
And then, as time was winding down in the period, Barzal grabbed a Josh Morrissey giveaway and he and Leo Komarov jumped out to a two-on-one. Barzal probably realized who his partner-in-crime was and instead wisely chose to blast one through Connor Hellebuyck to give the Isles the lead with 17 seconds left in the period.
He also took an uncalled high-stick to the face, his second of the night, and his fat lip resulted in a gem of a walk-off interview that had Shannon Hogan giggling:
Third Period: Better, All-Around
The Islanders were then able to play a little of their shutdown style that gave them recognition last year until Bailey put one into the empty net. They were able to pull themselves together after a rough defensive effort through the first half of the game. The third was probably their best period.
And when they did get hemmed in, Varlamov was there to ward off danger. He had, what, like two or three brilliant saves that should have been goals? And when Anders Lee got back on a sweet backcheck of Matthew Perreault, he showed his captain some love with a hug. That’s always good to see. (Good for Lee, too, because minutes earlier he had wasted an excellent Barzal one-on-three effort to enter the zone and still get a clean pass off. But that’s neither here nor there!)
- Mathew Barzal is... [heart-eyes emoji]. He’s obviously the best player on the team, and he showed it tonight. But you gotta love the personality on the guy, too. Anger from the missed high-sticks converted into a bit of “f*** you” drive to score a couple big goals, huge celebration on the go-ahead goal, excellent walk-off interview with Shannon, and a big smile and laugh on the bench as time expired. He’s a star in every sense of the word.
- Oliver Wahlstrom continues to impress; he had a shift in the second period where he knocked his man off the puck in the offensive zone and carried all the way around the key until he was face-to-face with Hellebuyck, unable to lift it by him. This was after Barzal (I think) found him all by himself in the slot, firing his shot right at the middle of the net as Hellebuyck got there. He had a couple good chances to get his first of his career, and I would say he’s earned the right to keep trying.
- Varlamov was excellent tonight, and if he keeps it up then the Islanders will have the dynamic goaltending duo they had last year.
We love to see the way they played in the third period, and it looks like the Islanders got back to what made them so successful last season: keeping chances to the outside and controlling the quality game:
Things starting to come together a bit for Long Island -— Carey Haber (@habermetrics) October 18, 2019
Final 5v5 Score Adjusted Metrics via NST
Jets 55.61% Attempts
Jets 55.23% High Danger Chances (9.33 - 7.56)
Isles 55.89% Expected Goals (1.68 - 1.33)
Varlamov was strong again, too.
Back over .500... 4-3-0, not bad. pic.twitter.com/QLUDfUOyvL
And here’s what Trotz had to say in his walk-off interview (lot of good things about Varly):
The Isles finish up the brief road trip in Columbus on Saturday night. The puck drops against the Blue Jackets at 7:00 p.m. at Nationwide Arena.