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Get to know an Islander: Mathew Barzal

The 23-year-old center can change a series in an instant with game-breaking speed.

New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Ahead of the upcoming playoff series between the Penguins and Islanders, we take a look at some of the competition we can expect to see a lot of.

Player: Mathew Barzal

Age: 23

Size: 6’0”, 187 lbs

Boxcar stats
55 games played, 17 goals, 28 assists, 45 points, 48 penalty minutes

5v5 Fancy stats (831 minutes in 2020-21, data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick)
Corsi For%: 53.4%
Goals For to Goals Against: 49 to 30 (62.03% GF)
xGF%: 56.86%
Scoring Chance%: 54.52%
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 60.66%

Much like Jordan Eberle, who was profiled yesterday, Mathew Barzal is the engine when it comes to offense for the Islanders. It’s no surprise to see similar numbers for Barzal, given that Eberle is by far his most-common teammate.

Compared to the rest of the forwards on the roster, everyone else kind of plays the low-event style you would expect from the Islanders, a Lou Lamoriello built team, and a Barry Trotz coached team.

Mathew Barzal is one of the great young talents in the NHL right now, having broken into the league at 20 years old, and scoring 85 points as a rookie, running away with the Calder Trophy.

Barzal has been productive against the Penguins with 16 points in 19 regular season games against the team.

He also registered 5 assists in the 4 playoff games when the two teams squared off two seasons ago in the postseason.

How the Penguins can combat him: Attack his offensive firepower with more offense.

When it comes to Barzal’s most-common on-ice teammates as defensemen, it’s Nick Leddy and Andy Greene.

When on-ice with Barzal, Leddy (51.35% CF) and Greene (50.38% CF) stay above the even mark, but when those two are on-ice without Barzal, those numbers drop down to 42.82% and 44.74%, respectively.

A little gamesmanship trying to attack those defensemen could go a long way. The numbers don’t lie that Barzal and Eberle’s offensive skill and puck possession are boosting their defensive teammates.

Barzal alone has the speed and skill to put on a show, so containing him will be pivotal in this series.

Let’s hope we don’t see much of this when the series kicks off on Sunday.