Streaks have to end at some point; that’s what defines them. They’re impermanent. And last night, through 40 minutes, it looked like the Isles’ seven-game win streak and ten-game point streak. Despite trailing by only one goal, they never seemed in rhythm.
But Kieffer Bellows had other ideas.
Bellows entered the lineup to replace the injured Anders Lee and slotted right into Lee’s spot as top-line left wing. I didn’t much notice him through the first two periods. But I really didn’t notice anyone through the first two periods, besides Oliver Wahlstrom. (Wahlstrom, for what it’s worth, might have the dirtiest shot—snap, wrist, and slap—that I have ever seen an Islander rip; bear in mind that I was born in 1994 before you all yell at me about Mike Bossy.)
However, in the third period, Bellows got the puck to Mathew Barzal. Two Devils tried to take the puck from Barzal, leaving Bellows wide open for Barzal’s back-pass as he entered the zone. Bellows hit the net to tie the game and exuded his excitement. Already fired up, he powered his way around Nathan Bastian and toward the front of the net, deking around Mackenzie Blackwood to give the Islanders the lead with which they finished the game. So Bellows, making his first appearance since coach Barry Trotz lambasted him a month ago, had the game-tying and game-winning goals three minutes apart from one another.
Fun fact about Kieffer Bellows about which possibly only I care: he was born in the middle of the 1998 Stanley Cup Final—one of three in which his father played.
Brian Bellows, in his penultimate NHL season, made the Stanley Cup Final with the Washington Capitals. Interestingly enough, he spent most of the 1997-98 season in Germany. The Mighty Ducks acquired Brian for a sixth-round pick from the Lightning early in the 1996-97 season. They opted not to re-sign him after the 1996-97 season ended. He went to training camp with the Canucks, but they too chose not to sign him.
Finding no NHL home, he signed with the Berlin Capitals of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) and played 29 games there. In March 1998, Caps GM George McPhee signed Brian as the season neared its close. So he went from one Capitals franchise to another. He joined Washington’s top line with Adam Oates and Joe Juneau, recording six goals and three assists over the team’s final eleven regular-season games. He added six more goals and seven more assists throughout Washington’s run to the Cup Final, including the series-clinching overtime winner in Game 6 against the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.
Game 1 of the Final was on June 9, 1998. Kieffer was born on June 10, 1998. Game 2 took place on June 11, 1998. According to this blog post, Capitals owner Abe Pollin allowed Brian to use his private jet to fly from Michigan to Minnesota and back to witness Kieffer’s birth and return in time for Game 2. The Detroit Red Wings ultimately swept the Capitals that year, and Brian played only one more season in Washington before retiring. But it’s pretty wild that Kieffer was born in the midst of a Stanley Cup Final. (Everyone should read that blog post, too, because it details some of what Brian and his wife endured toward the tail end of his career.)
Also, remember how McPhee signed Brian to Washington in 1998? Kieffer was drafted to the Islanders in June 2016, while McPhee served as an advisor to then-Isles GM Garth Snow. The family connections run deep.
Anyway, Kieffer Bellows has a ways to go before he solidifies his spot in the lineup. One game, in the grand scheme, is only one game. But if he puts forth an effort consistent with his effort last night, he just might stick around—and Trotz praised both his offensive game and his positioning, so it was a clear improvement from last time.
From the Skinny:
HISTORY IN NEWARK: @BellowsKieffer is the first player in #Isles history to score his first four #NHL goals in a pair of two-goal games. (Also 2/6/2020 vs #LAKings)— Eric Hornick (@ehornick) March 14, 2021
Only 481 to catch Dad! @IslesMSGN #SKINNY
- Last night marked the halfway point of the Isles’ season. Though the schedule becomes more difficult now, the first half could not have gone much better. [Newsday]
- With Lee down, the Isles have undertaken a committee approach to replacing his presence on and off the ice. [Islanders]
- The Islanders’ top line has been among the best in the NHL this season, thanks in large part to Barzal’s forward leap. [The Athletic]
This Barry Trotz guy, he’s pretty good, eh?
#Isles best 28-game starts in franchise history:— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) March 14, 2021
1978-79 -- 18-4-6
2019-20 -- 19-7-2
2020-21 -- 18-6-4
1976-77 -- 18-7-3
1980-81 -- 17-6-5
- The Lightning last night raised their 2020 Stanley Cup banner to the rafters with fans in attendance. [Yahoo]
- Jack Eichel will be out for the “foreseeable future” for the Sabres with a neck injury. He had been dealing with it all season, and it appears it was aggravated against the Isles last Sunday. [NHL | Sportsnet]
- And Buffalo fans have landed in Hockey Hell. [Die by the Blade]
- As Alex Ovechkin negotiates his next contract with Washington, both sides continue to search for a “sweet spot” that meets both of their needs. [NHL]
- The Hurricanes waived defenseman Jake Gardiner. I suspect he will be headed to the taxi squad (only the Isles have a taco squad). [Sportsnet]
- Erik Karlsson thought that when he went to San Jose, he was escaping the Senators’ rebuild. But now he may find himself in the middle of the Sharks’ rebuild, for which he did not sign up. [NHL]
- And finally, despite Gary Bettman announcing that this season’s divisions were a one-off, the Canadian teams plan to lobby the NHL to keep the North Division. [Sportsnet]