Game Preview: NY Islanders vs Toronto Maple Leafs
The NY Islanders played the third game of their three-game road trip against the Dallas Stars, in which they came up short for the second straight game. They lost 5-2 and had a rough time trying to defend Stars' captain Jamie Benn, who had one goal and two assists, with his goal being the game winner. The bright spot of the game for the Islanders was Mathew Barzal lighting the lamp for the first time this season, and he did it twice. The first goal he scored was a deflection coming from an Alex Romanov shot, and the second was a shot right in front of Jake Oettinger on the power play assisted by Anders Lee and Brock Nelson. Semyon Varlamov made the start for the blue and orange, allowing four goals on 34 shots.
The Toronto Maple Leafs' last game came at home against the Buffalo Sabres, where they would take the victory 5-2. Three of the Leafs' five goals came on special teams, with John Tavares and William Nylander scoring on the power play, and Mark Giordano scoring a controversial shorthanded goal while the net came off its pegs. Nylander would score two goals in this game, and Calle Jarkrok would also score early in the contest. Both goals that the Leafs gave up came from Buffalo's power play, coming from Alex Tuch and Casey Mittlestadt. Matt Murray started in goal for the Leafs, making 32 saves on 34 shots to earn his second win of the season.
The Islanders lost all three games they played against the Leafs last season, losing all three matches by multiple goals. The first game they played last season was the second game ever to be played at UBS Arena, and they lost 3-0 in front of a disappointed crowd. In January, when the Isles were trying to regain their footing after a rough start to the season, still could not get the job done in Toronto, losing 3-1 with Zach Parise scoring the only goal for New York. Their last meeting would come in game 76 for the Islanders last season, and they had a 2-1 lead thanks to Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier, but could not stop Toronto from coming back and taking it 4-2.
The Islanders and Maple Leafs' "rivalry" comes mostly from the fans due to former Islanders' captain John Tavares opting to test free agency and sign with his hometown team back in 2018. There is always extra motivation from the fans maybe more so than the players to prove that the Islanders don't need Tavares to succeed, but no game they have played in recent memory comes close to when Tavares returned to Nassau Coliseum in front of an emotional crowd. The Islanders won that game 6-1, and many players that played for the Islanders in that game on February 28th, 2019 still remain with the team.
Beauvillier has certainly been a player that has been under some scrutiny for the Islanders this season. He only has three goals and four assists on the season, and he has spent time on Barzal's line, who is over a point-per-game this season. He has not scored in his last eight games, and what better team to break that skid against than the Maple Leafs. Beau has five career goals against the Leafs, scoring in their most recent matchup as mentioned above, along with scoring the Isles' first goal in the game that Tavares returned to Long Island. Nine months later in the 2019-20 season, he scored two goals in a 5-4 in Toronto. If they Islanders want to break their two-game losing streak and break even on their four-game road trip, they may need some production from the struggling winger.
Its no secret that Tavares is always going to be a focus for the Islanders while he is on the ice, not just because of emotion, but also because he has been one of, if not the most consistent players for Toronto this season. JT has put up 10 goals and 21 points in 19 games this season, on pace for one of the best seasons of his career. Tavares hasn't shown signs of having an off-game yet, as he has six points in his last five games. The Isles will need to keep watch of him while they are shorthanded, with six of his 10 tallies this season coming on the man advantage, and he will surely have extra motivation to put pucks in the net along with his linemates Mitch Marner and Alex Kerfoot.Islanders:
Zach Parise-Mathew Barzal-Oliver WahlstromAnders Lee-Brock Nelson-Anthony BeauvillierJosh Bailey-JG Pageau-Kyle PalmieriMatt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech-Ryan PulcokAlexander Romanov-Noah DobsonSebastian Aho-Scott Mayfield
Ilya SorokinSemyon Varlamov
Michael Bunting-Auston Matthews-William NylanderAlexander Kerfoot-John Tavares-Mitch MarnerZach Aston-Reese-David Kampf-Denis MalginPierre Engvall-Pontus Holmburg-Calle Jarnkrok
Morgan Rielly-Jordie BennMark Giordano-Justin HollRasmus Sandin-Timothy Liljegren
Erik KallgrenMatt Murray
Lines courtesy of dailyfaceoff.com