After another loss in a winnable game against the Canucks earlier in the week, the Islanders' dismal second half of the season continued to slide in the wrong direction.
What plan this team has for the future is beyond me at this point. There are a lot of unanswered questions, and knowing how this franchise has been run for the better part of two-and-half decades, fans won't like how things continue to go in the near future.
There are plenty of negatives that you can harp on this team, whether it's the front office, bad defense or the lingering John Tavares situation. Take your pick, and you can discuss it at length for as long as you desire.
But let's take a moment to appreciate something positive in what is becoming a lost season. Mathew Barzal is almost a sure-fire bet to win this year's Calder Trophy for the league's rookie of the year. Especially with the recent injuries to Charlie McAvoy and Brock Boeser, you can pretty much take it to the bank that Barzal will be the first Islander to take home the award since Bryan Berard did so in 1996-97.
But looking at what he's done on the ice this season, it's fair to put Barzal in the elite Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy territory, at least in terms of rookie campaigns. While Barzal would be hard-pressed to catch either of their 90-plus point totals, what he has done is impressive nonetheless.
Even if you hadn't watched a single game this season, Barzal's numbers stand out pretty nicely. His nice 18-51-69 line is putting him at over a point-per-game pace -- no small feat for a 20-year-old in the NHL. He's leading all rookies in points and is 15th in the league overall.
On three separate occasions this season, Barzal has recorded five-point nights -- just the second rookie in 100 years to accomplish that feat. And not only that, he's the first rookie in the league to ever have two games in which he collected five assists.
The basic stats look sharp, and the advanced metrics look just as good. Per Corsica at 5-on-5, Barzal is on the right side of the ledger in Corsi For percentage (52.1 percent) against competition that has averaged a CF percentage of 50.6 percent. Comparing him to the rest of the Islanders, he has a 6.88 Corsi Relative percentage, meaning the team is generating more offense when he's on the ice. And with the way he's played with his linemates, that's definitely true.
Early on this year, it was clear he and Jordan Eberle had a nice connection together. Eberle's numbers in his first year in New York are reflected in this, as he already has 47 points, which is only four fewer than he had all of last year. Thanks in large part to Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, Barzal and Eberle have formed quite the tandem on the team's second line. With his numbers might not pop as much as the other two, even Anthony Beauvillier has found his niche on this line.
You can talk about the numbers all day with Barzal and his linemates. But what really stands out to me is his skating and passing ability. Because to be honest, I'd pay good money to just watch him skate around the rink.
Obviously, Barzal has elite speed and can create offense with it. But what impresses me most is his ability to draw defensemen close to him and then weave his way through to make space for himself toward the goal.
Sometimes you'll be watching and wondering why he's holding onto the puck for so long, but then he stops on a dime and pivots through a hole he created. It's astounding what he can do in the offensive end. There's a reason he has so many assists this season, and it's because of the pure skating and passing talent he can deploy in the offensive zone.
There's a lot to angry about this season and how it's played out. But just take a second to reflect on what Barzal is doing. It's nothing short of special.