Brock Nelson exploded into life against the Buffalo Sabres.
Earlier in the season, I called for the New York Islanders’ second-line centerman Brock Nelson to be benched, as maybe a game or two from the press box would wake him up after his sluggish start. But apparently, the best medicine for the streaky scorer was to match him up against the worst team in the division, the Buffalo Sabres.
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In the three-game sweep over the Sabres, Nelson lit the lamp three times and picked up an assist. He showcased the scoring ability that he has in his arsenal, the scoring ability we saw last season, and the scoring ability we have seen in years past.
Two of Nelson’s three goals (one empty-netter) were goalscorer goals. And that is what he is, a goalscorer.
Nelson has hit the 20-goal mark in five of his first seven NHL seasons, only failing to reach that mark in 2013-14, his rookie campaign, and in 2017-18. The Minnesota-native was tied for the team lead with 26 goals during the regular-season last year before scoring nine goals in 22 playoff games (18 points).
This season Nelson has nine goals and five assists in 25 games. He has picked up five points in six games against the Sabres this season, as he is one of the many Islanders who have raised their game against the weakest team in the East Division.
New York Islanders Brock Nelson has four points over his last three games.
Even with his ability to release the puck, Nelson has tried to create with his hands, and it has not paid off often this season. He would take that extra second and the opportunity would go by the boards. This past weekend, Nelson had success because he kept it simple. When a shooting lane opened up, he did not think twice.
After the Islanders found themselves down a goal after one period of play this past Saturday, Mat Barzal scored one of the best goals of the NHL season, if not the best.
Just 1:25 later, Nelson lit the lamp to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead on a brilliant shot.
Nelson filled the lane to perfection and Anthony Beauvillier found him in the slot. Nelson saw a shooting lane and did not wait, as he roofed one high glove side on Carter Hutton. This is what Head Coach Barry Trotz needs to see more of, as that shot is beating every goaltender in the National Hockey League.
In Sunday’s win, we saw Nelson score in a very similar fashion as, again, he wasted no time before beating Jonas Johansson to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead. Nelson is at his best when he just lets the puck go.
It’s goals like this where we see the confidence brewing. As the rush ensued for the Islanders, Nelson signaled over to Oliver Wahlstrom, as he told him to possess the puck up the ice. While Wahlstrom did that, Nelson got open in the slot and an excellent lead pass allowed Nelson to corral the puck and let it rip all in one motion.
Despite not scoring in the first of three against the Sabres, Nelson did pick up a fantastic assist on Anthony Beauvillier’s breakaway goal. After Taylor Hall had cut the Islanders lead in half, Nelson made a real heads-up play to spring Beauvillier as the Islanders reclaimed their two-goal lead.
If Nelson passes this puck immediately, it probably gets picked off. But he showed off his hockey I.Q. as he waited for just a second for Beauvillier to create separation before feeding him for the beautiful goal.
Now against the Sabres this season, Nelson has five points in six games. He has dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins as well this season (five points in six games), but outside of those two opponents, the 29-year old center has been M.I.A. The Islanders are on an eight-game point streak right now, and Nelson is a streaky player. Brock Nelson needs to find a way to play to this level against the more formidable teams in the division, like the Boston Bruins, who the New York Islanders host on Tuesday.