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Jean-Gabriel Pageau was one of the few major acquisitions Islander fans could get excited about in recent memory. As a team known for having very few trades and free agency signings, landing him in a trade with Ottawa was one of the key moves to create a sustainably competitive team. As we gear up to face his former team tonight @ 530pm in Ottawa, let us take a moment to reflect on what he brings to the lineup.
Pageau came to the Island in 2020 for several draft picks and has since become a fan favorite. Although, he had previously earned our favor as a Senator when he scored four goals against the Rangers in a playoff series in 2017. Earning $5M/yr through 2025/2026, he is not relied on to produce a massive amount of points for the Isles (currently with 8 pts in 16 GP), but he is good for the occasional big-moment goal or assist. His value comes largely from his overall play. Pageau is a grinder, and an effective one, serving as a top penalty killer and important center on our roster. Although the lines have shifted a lot this year, he is consistently centering the third line, often with Palmieri and Parise (the 3-P line), who have seen a bump in scoring so far, and also with Bailey and Beau. Additionally, he can be found on the 1st PP unit as a down-low facilitator.
JG is certainly an “identity” player for this Islanders team, and that is most evident on the PK. He has a career total of 16 short-handed goals, 3 of which since joining the Isles. He is a treat to watch disassemble the opposing power play units, exercising enough patience to pick his spots and become aggressive when it is needed to break up plays and get the puck out of our end. Thanks to his efforts, along with others like Cizikas, Pelech, and Sorokin, our penalty kill sits at 84.3 % effective, just fourth in the NHL. Our PK is one of our best attributes as a team and a large reason why our goal differential remains positive at the moment (+11), because we have not been all that shy about getting penalties thus far.
Despite his stature of 5’9”/185 Ilbs, he is willing to throw hits and get himself involved in scrums (aka my hockey doppelganger and hero). Brian Boyle probably still shivers at the thought of how close he came to fighting Pageau in the qualifying round of the 2020 COVID playoff season. He may not have flinched on the outside but we all know how fast his heart must have been beating – phew! He has dropped the gloves with several Rangers, as well, including Jacob Trouba after a big hit on Michael Dal Cole. His fights are never the most exciting, but considering his size he actually holds up quite well against anyone he has fought. The scrappiness is not something that can be taught and is always appreciated by any hockey team (except the Leafs).
I love knowing we have guys like him on our roster who will never shy away from defending a teammate, or himself. One moment that comes to mind is when Nikita Kucherov, the low-key dirtiest superstar in the show, tried to make JG earn his empty-netter by hooking and slashing the absolute shit out of him. Pageau tucks the puck in before going after Kucherov and creating a melee behind their net.
The ping-pong champion currently sits at 6th in the league in faceoff wins (182) but is 5th if going by FO% (59.9 %). His efficiency at the dot has been a tremendous contributor to the team’s all-around success, both 5-on-5 and on special teams. Ideally, the PP will start to pick up as we are currently 25th in the league (17%), but JGP does manage to have a single PPP. His career-high FO% is 56.66% in ‘20/21, with a career average of 53.5%.
Tonight should be an interesting matchup as the Isles face off against Pageau’s former squad. This will be a good chance to gain two points at home from a team that has been struggling overall, largely with goaltending and injuries. We had success against them last season, taking all three games and outscoring them 12-4. A key feature of the game will land on Pageau’s plate in trying to stifle their PP (24%) and maybe notching a point or two against a fairly average PK (79.3%). One thing of concern is the sharp-shooters on the Senators’ roster, with guys like Giroux and Tkachuk, who have historically played well against the Islanders. Hopefully they will be distracted by the post-game honoring of Sens legend, Daniel Alfredsson, to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Regardless of tonight’s matchup, the Islanders are lucky to have a guy like Pageau to contribute to all aspects of the game. He is a major contributor to the spirit of this Islanders team, and any success we have will be in part due to his leadership. I look forward to watching him battle in an Islander jersey for the foreseeable future.