Offense has rarely been the problem for the New York Islanders this season.
Through 48 games, they have scored 168 goals, tops in the NHL as the first line of John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Anders Lee have been close to unstoppable. Lee (27 goals) and Tavares (26 goals) are ranked in the top five on the league’s top scorers chart while Bailey ranks second in the NHL in assists with 41.
But lately, it’s been another Islanders line pieced together that has been carrying the team at times.
New York’s second line of center Mathew Barzal, right winger Jordan Eberle and left winger Anthony Beauvillier have been a revelation over the past six games after regular second-line winger Andrew Ladd went down with an upper-body injury that is expected to hold him out until the end of January.
The problem is, head coach Doug Weight might not want to break up his most explosive line.
Not too long ago, the 20-year-old Beauvillier was in the minors trying to hone his game after being sent down by the Islanders shortly after New Year’s Eve. In 31 games, he was failing to provide much offensive support as he put up just four goals and three assists for seven points on the third line.
But Ladd’s injury forced the Islanders to recall Beauvillier and putting him on the second line.
Waiting for him was the Barzal, one of the league’s top rookies who is also just 20 years old and garnering serious consideration for the Calder Trophy — the NHL’s award for Rookie of the Year — and Eberle, the veteran of the trio at 27.
Barzal is averaging over a point a game with 16 goals (ranked second among rookies), 33 assists (first among rookies) and 49 points (also first among rookies) while Eberle provides a strong playmaking presence on the wing with 16 goals and 22 assists of his own.
The three have been all but unstoppable over the six games they’ve skated together, giving the Islanders a grouping of six forwards that can rival any of the top scoring units in the NHL.
After recording just seven points through 31 games, Beauvillier has scored six goals, including two power-play tallies during the Islanders’ 7-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night, and added an assist in the six games since being recalled and joining the second line.
“He’s been a machine,” Islanders head coach Doug Weight told MSG Network on Saturday. “He’s been strong. It’s just amazing what confidence can do for somebody, isn’t it? He was losing every puck battle and getting pushed around. He’s strong enough, he’s done it. It was just a great reboot for him, he’s a great kid and he’s come back with a fire in his eye and it’s really been valuable for us.”
His linemates have been all-too-willing to oblige on the playmaking side of things as Barzal has a trio of goals and nine assists for 12 points during that stretch while Eberle has added nine points (2 G, 7 A) of his own.