Isles Forward Lines Continue to Change, Parise to Play 1200th Game

After a brutal January, a big trade, and a mediocre first half of February, the Islanders continue to see the forward lines changing frequently. One of the major criticisms of this team has been head coach, Lane Lambert’s inconsistency with lineups. It was to be expected, though, as he is new to the helm and would surely look to organize the team as he saw fit.

 As a player, it can be frustrating to switch around as you don’t get enough time to develop chemistry with your linemates, however, it can also be a nice change for a struggling forward. With offense drier than a Popeye’s biscuit, things needed to happen. Acquiring Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks was a major play to revamp the Isles forward group and power play. Although the power play has not improved much in terms of success, the boys look a lot faster with the puck and more eager to shoot than before, which is a good start.

In general, I would say the Isles have appeared more dangerous in the offensive zone, but the goals don’t come as easy as we’d hope, even still. Could that be part of the switching lines, or is that meant to be the remedy? Barry Trotz was not as quick to switch things up, which may have been a fault of his in the end (as few as there were). Lambert has clearly grown frustrated with the results night-in and night-out. He will do whatever he can to spark this team, as his future on the bench may be in question if things remain static.

The Islanders face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight in a matchup with significant playoff implications, as the Pens sit in front of us with 63 points. We play them again on Monday (the 20th), as well. They currently hold the first wildcard spot, and with 4 games in hand and 2 points on us, these upcoming games will be must-wins for the Isles. Last game against the Senators, Coach Lambert was not shy about shortening the bench in the third period. I personally support this move considering the games remaining are winding down and we are far from safe in the standings. Let whoever is playing hard keep playing.

In addition to restrictions in ice time, new forward lines will be unveiled for Friday’s tilt.

Anders Lee – Bo Horvat – Mat Barzal
Zach Parise – Brock Nelson – Kyle Palmieri
Josh Bailey – Casey Cizikas – Simon Holmstrom
Matt Martin – Andy Andreoff – Hudson Fasching

Lambert is giving Anders Lee a chance to revitalize his scoring with our two best skaters on the front end in Barzy and Horvat. He has played with Barzal for a long time, and one would hope the addition of Horvat will only make things easier for him.

Lee, himself, has acknowledged his value to the top line: “I can win some battles and get them the puck, and that’s usually the job I play on these lines and get open for them to get a shot and have an opportunity to bury it.”

Moving Bailey from the top to the third line is a power move, in my estimation. Although, he did not look as bad as one can imagine with the two faster forwards, he is too soft on the puck to ensure O-zone time and a sufficient number of dishes to Barzal and Horvat. I am curious to see how well he operates with Cizikas and Holmstrom, what I imagine will be a line meant for suffocating the opposition but with scoring potential. We have seen Holmstrom’s ability around the net in flashes. The brand-new fourth line will be another one to watch. Martin has been playing well, with 15 points as a fourth-liner, and Fasching has become a low-key fan favorite for his consistent effort and puck movement. Andy Andreoff has been called up from Bridgeport to fill in where Otto Koivula might have been otherwise. Clutterbuck remains on the IR.

With what seems to be the most obvious first line for this Isles roster, the second line jumps out to me, as well, in terms of scoring potential. Parise, Nelson, and Palmieri are all veteran NHL forwards looking to stay as competitive as possible. Palmieri returning from injury has been significant, as he is oddly one of our better scorers based on his output per game this season (8G, 8A, 30 GP). 7 of his points have come since Jan. 23rd. Nelson, as well, has been a top-scorer for the Islanders in the last couple of seasons. He does not always move as well as he could, but if he gets the puck in the right areas, he has the deadly release to snipe a few more in.

Parise is another fan-favorite, possessing offensive skill with a grinder’s mentality. At 38 years old, he sets the example of what a true professional looks like on and off the ice. Fittingly, tonight will be his 1200th game in the NHL. This is a remarkable number to reach. It is difficult to imagine what sort of care and effort goes into staying at that level for so long in a league growing ever-younger. Fans are proud to see him continue his career here on the Island. Zach is not the first Parise to suit up for the Isles, as his father, JP, played both on the Island and in Minnesota throughout the late 60s and 70s.

Parise was drafted 17th overall to the Devils in 2003, during Lou’s tenure with NJ. He spent his first 7 seasons in New Jersey before another 8 in Minnesota. The Isles unsuccessfully tried to acquire him in 2020 before landing him the following season. Zach played all 82 games for the Isles last season, finishing with 35 points. He currently has 21 points in 57 games but continues to make a difference in other aspects of the game. His career-high came in the ’08-’09 season when he netted 45 goals and 49 assists for 94 points.

It is uncertain what will happen with Parise after this season, but I can say that I would love to keep him around. Some might complain about his age, but it honestly doesn’t matter when we get that sort of play with that sort of contract. He has been the most consistent player on this team since we picked him up in 2021. As it stands, Zach has 866 points in 1,999 games. Let’s hope we get see that number rise!

Lastly, the Islanders will honor the legendary goaltender, Billy Smith, in tonight’s game. The first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive a Billy Smith bobblehead! Smith was a key figure in the Islander’s dynasty that dominated the early 80s. Known for his aggressive style of play, Billy Smith will always be cherished by this fanbase, and hockey fans in general. It is a wonderful thing that we have so many legends to celebrate, and we deeply miss those who have passed since.

Let’s get a fucking W tonight, fellas… for the fans, for Parise, and, most importantly, FOR BILLY!

Author: Anthony DiCostanzo

Islander fan living in Boston! #Metal #Hockey #Nature @anthonymdico (Twitter) @antdico25 (IG)

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