It hasn’t been a good day for the New York Islanders with General Manager Lou Lamoriello announcing earlier that forward and Captain Anders Lee will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL that will require surgery, placing further offensive onus on Mathew Barzal.
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Lamoriello made sure to stress the point that Lee is done for this year, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it is likely that the Islanders will look to acquire a top-six winger at the Trade Deadline given that they will have cap space to play with in the wake of Lee being placed on Long-Term Injured Reserve.
Losing Lee is of course a huge blow and it is frustrating when you look at how the forward got injured, getting tangled with New Jersey Devils forward Pavel Zacha and falling to the ice awkwardly. The focus for the 30-year-old will now be on ensuring he is ready to go for the start of the 2021-22 NHL season.
For the Islanders, however, they must now look to replace the void left by their Captain both in the locker room from a leadership perspective and also on the ice when it comes to offensive output, with Anders Lee having recorded 19 points (12 G, 7 A) in 27 games prior to going down hurt, with the left-shot on pace for a 30-goal season had it been a normal 82-game schedule.
Mathew Barzal will need to step up for the New York Islanders with Lee out
And that’s where Mathew Barzal comes in.
Of course, there is a lot of pressure on Barzal anyway given that he is the most naturally gifted player on this Isles roster, while there is no doubt that Lamoriello will look to pick up an impact player at the Trade Deadline in addition to hoping that some of the younger players on this roster step up to the plate and deliver down the stretch.
But, given his elite skill and his ability to change a game with one sublime play, the Islanders will be looking to Barzal to reach another level or two and help this team overcome the adversity of losing an important player such as Lee as they look to make it out of an ultra-competitive East Division and embark on another deep postseason run.
Barzal has come as advertised so far in 2020-21 with nine goals and 15 assists for 24 points in 30 games, and he also recorded a Goal of the Year candidate with this insane effort against the Buffalo Sabres, which we broke down here.
We have seen time and time again that the 23-year-old is a special player who can both score and create, and his blistering speed also makes him a deadly weapon at 5-on-5, on the power play and on the penalty kill. Basically, Barzal is one of the most potent offensive threats in the entire NHL and he can really drive play for the Isles.
However, with just two points in his last five games, Mat Barzal will need to be more consistent in the offensive zone and put up big numbers on a nightly basis to ensure that Anders Lee isn’t missed too much by the Isles, although it is impossible to completely replace everything that the latter brings to the party.
And, of course, other forwards will also need to produce and do their bit but, as the offensive lynchpin of this team and with the potential to morph into an elite, elite forward in the National Hockey League, the onus to make things happen in the offensive zone and light the lamp will be on Mathew Barzal even more so now and he will be required to carry this New York Islanders team on his back as they look to recover from the blow of losing Anders Lee and remain on track to competing for Lord Stanley.