John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen made up a dynamic first line in the final week of the season, and they could give the Islanders an edge in their first round match up with the Florida Panthers.
Tavares earned first star of the week honors with Okposo and Nielsen on his wings. The three have continued skating together at practice this week, and they seemed prime to open the series together when it begins on Thursday in Sunrise.
"We want to keep building on the success we've had," Tavares told reporters on Wednesday. "What's great about those two guys is that they're very driven."
Jack Capuano was non-committal about his lineup, but did say that Nielsen's success as a center gives him pause about changing his position during the most pivotal time of the season.
"Fransy has been a tremendous center for us over the years, so we have some decisions to make," Capuano said.
I like this line for a few reasons. Obviously, it gives the Isles a ton of fire power up front, which we see firsthand last week. Presumably, the effects would trickle down and let Nelson and Strome play their natural positions, which may make them more comfortable. But it also puts two natural centers on the top line, which will certainly help on draws late in games.
If the Isles need a big face off win from their top line, they can call on either Nielsen or Tavares. If one gets thrown out of the circle, the other can take over. Considering how important every second is in the playoffs, a key face off can be the difference. The top line should be on the ice in many of these big moments, and having two centers that both won their draws over 50 percent of the time this year (Nielsen 50.1 percent, Tavares 54.1 percent), it could give them a much-needed advantage.