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Game # 46 – Islanders vs. Hawks Q&A: With Dan Saraceni of LightHouseHockey.com

Dan Saraceni is an editor at LightHouseHockey.com. You can follow him on Twitter @CultureOfLosing. 

We’ll start with something joyous: Mathew Barzal, the best player ever or the bestest player ever?

The best. Maybe bestest ever. Islanders haven’t had a player with this… whatever it is in a long time. Even as great as Tavares is, the speed and elusiveness of Barzal is like X-Men level. Of course, as expected, we’re now into the “stop turning the puck over” part of the program but he’s got the awareness and quickness to clean up his own messes a lot of the time. I’ll be sad if he doesn’t win the Calder but those things happen. I’m more excited about seeing what he can do in years two, three and beyond.

Anders Lee is on pace for 40 goals, after 34 last year. That would make him one of the more dangerous scorers in the league. is that what he is? Or a Tavares product? And was Lee who  Peter Chiarelli thought he was getting for Eberle and got confused?
Lee is Tim Kerr, that immobile net front beast that cleans up a lot of rebounds. He’s a little better than just that, but it’s “where his fish is fried,” as Doug Weight said. I wouldn’t say he’s a product of Tavares because he had 36 goals last year, many coming after Tavares was hurt and missed the end of the season. But what’s weird is that without Josh Bailey, that whole line hadn’t worked that well over the last few games. That might be because they had a rotating cast of nobodies on the other wing, but I think Bailey and Lee work as a tandem because of the set-up/net front dynamic. Tavares will be Tavares no matter who he’s with. I think Chiarelli thought he was getting all three Strome brothers for Eberle in a kinda weird Hockey Voltron deal or something.
The Isles are rocking three young d-men in Pelech, Mayfield, and Pulock. What’s the outlook for this trio?
The outlook is long because they’ve already signed Pelech and Mayfield to cheap, long term deals of four and five years respectively. They’re both similar: more defensive than offensive, not especially quick, prone to games of quiet competence and bouts of overt ineptitude, seem like nice guys. Pulock had high expectations given his AHL scoring numbers and big slap shot. His defense has gotten better this season but he’s been reluctant to let it rip for some reason earlier this season. He’s definitely got talent, it’s just a matter of putting it all together (and letting the coaches keep him in the lineup).
Are the Islanders gonna have to find a goalie before the deadline?
Honestly, at this point, I don’t think it’s as simple as that. This team has a lot of structural and fundamental issues that need to be addressed first. Neither goalie has had a good season. Greiss’s 50-something save performance in Montreal on Monday was his best game since October and he’s been sub-.900 the entire time. Halak was awful in November, but has shown more signs of life throughout the season. I was at the 4-1 loss to the Devils on Tuesday and it’s hard to say he was at fault for all but one goal. No goalie should have to face 40+ shots a night. Halak’s a UFA and they’ll need the savings to sign Tavares and (I hope) Bailey. Greiss will be back next year, and I hope back to the above average goalie he was when they signed him. They have some prospects playing overseas that they’re banking on, too. Typical Islanders: the answer is always tomorrow.
So how does this Tavares thing go? Barzal, new arena plans all show promise for the future. In the other hand, may miss the playoffs again.
I’ve been compiling Tavares free agency stories for almost two years now and I still have no idea. Before Monday, when he told a crowd of Montreal reporters that he wants to stay on Long Island and has never thought about playing anywhere else, he had been consistent in saying, “I like it here, I’m focused on winning and when the time is right, I’ll weigh all the information.” (which reminds me, I need to add that stuff.) Most insiders agree he’ll stay. I think that he thinks they can still be a winner, especially with Barzal now in the picture. Belmont was huge. The new owners have to know that without him, even less people will want to watch them. They have money coming off the books, which was smart. But I’ve seen them screw up so many lay-ups, it’s hard to think they won’t do it again.

 

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