Man, the New York Islanders have the depth and talent to win games without Mathew Barzal, but his absence sure removes a significant comeback threat, no?
The Islanders’ star was a late scratch Friday night in Calgary, one factor in the Islanders’ 4-1 loss to the Flames. It started with a 3-0 first-period hole in Semyon Varlamov’s first game in three weeks, which was a hole they couldn’t overcome — and one that cried out for Barzal’s gamebreaking skills.
For this daunting four-game road trip, that makes four slow starts, regulation losses to all three decent teams, and a nearly worst-case outcome of just one win and two points from the journey.
If there is any bright spot, it’s the news that Barzal’s issue sounds minor; he took an awkward hit from behind late in the Oilers game on Thursday night, so perhaps it’s a lingering effect from that or something else in that game:
Lane Lambert says Mathew Barzal was dealing with a tweak - presumably from Thursday night in Edmonton - tried to give it a go in warmups and determination was to hold him out.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) January 7, 2023
Barzal watched game in press box with Salo and Palmieri
In his return to the lineup after dealing with a lower body (reportedly: groin) injury, it was not a sharp night for Varlamov. He gave up goals on his first shot faced and on three of six shots in the first period. Though two were one-timers, Blake Coleman’s (to make it 2-0) was a very stoppable bad-angle rebound of his own shot.
On a better night in goal, the Isles reach the first intermission tied 1-1 or even leading.
Zach Parise scored the Islanders’ only goal late in the first period to bring them within shouting distance. In the second, their best chances to get back in the game were stymied by Jacob Markstrom, who stopped two golden shorthanded chances by Casey Cizikas and J-G Pageau.
In the middle section of the third period, newly announced All-Star Nazem Kadri put the game away with a perfectly placed but still inexcusable low-angle shot over Varlamov’s shoulder.
Lambert Postgame Availability pic.twitter.com/NRSx8ShSEu— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 7, 2023
So we’re at the halfway point of the season, and we’ve consistently seen that the Islanders generally rely on a top goaltending tandem; that’s in contrast to the Oilers on Thursday, when Edmonton prevailed while keeping the Isles from testing Jack Campbell in the middle of his nightmare season.
Varlamov can be forgiven for a bad night shaking off rust in his return from injury, but it highlights the thin margin the Isles have been dealing with in a tough division in a season of constant up-down-up-down game sequences.
Now the Isles get a five-game homestand, including tough opponents in the Stars and their replacements, the Wild, plus the Capitals and Bruins, with the Canadiens in between.
The four-game trip was feared and turned out poorly. They absolutely need better results on the homestand to stay with the wild card pack.