Islanders’ carousel of linemates continues around Mathew Barzal; Oliver Wahlstrom next to get a look

Islanders mailbag Mathew Barzal
Mathew Barzal (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Mathew Barzal expressed a desire to find a consistent linemate or two toward the home stretch of last season after playing 100 or more minutes with five different wingers on his flank. So far in 2022-23, the carousel of options is still in full motion. 

After beginning the season with Kyle Palmieri on the right wing and Zach Parise on the left, Barzal saw Anthony Beauvillier bumped up to the first line with little to show for it. On Tuesday at team practice upon their return home from an 0-2 trip to Florida, extending the Islanders’ losing streak to three, Barzal was working with Oliver Wahlstrom and Josh Bailey.

That’ll be five different wingers during 5-on-5 play in just seven games. 

“Of course, you’d like to find someone that works and just roll with it but I don’t think anyone has had a stretch where it’s been good enough to solidify a line,” Barzal said on Tuesday. “We’re still trying to find that spark. Hopefully, we find that quick.”

Just six of the Islanders’ 15 forwards that have suited up this season have scored over the first six games of the new campaign. Take out Anders Lee’s four and Wahlstrom’s three, and Islanders forwards have scored just five goals, including zero from Barzal.

Under new head coach Lane Lambert, a more aggressive defense was meant to support an offense that simply doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with some of the premier teams in the NHL, but the results have been less than impressive. 

Of the Islanders’ 19 goals this season, 12 of them have come in just two games with the other seven coming across 12 periods of play.

For Lambert, who has been throwing nearly everything at the wall during his first two weeks as head coach, putting Bailey with a lethal shot like Wahlstrom’s is one of the last options to get something going.

“[Wahlstrom] is a shooter and Mat’s a possession guy,” Lambert said. “With Josh Bailey there with him — he’s a distributor as well — we want to see more of what Wally does best and that’s shoot the puck.”

Oliver Wahlstrom Islanders Ducks
Oliver Wahlstrom (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

It’s an opportunity for Wahlstrom to prove that he’s capable of sticking on the first line — quite a jump from opening night when he began on the third unit.

But three goals in a two-game stretch against the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks provided that flash of a spark the Islanders offense has starved for. Following a short stay on the second line alongside Lee and Brock Nelson, he’s now getting his chance next to Barzal.

“It’s an opportunity for sure,” Wahlstrom said. “At the same time, it’s hockey. You can’t put too much pressure on yourself… Just stay the course. Play my game and stay even keel… We want to get some wins.”

Barzal is looking for the same exact thing from Wahlstrom, imploring that there won’t need to be any adjustments made to his game to fit in.

“I want him to play hockey. If the shot’s there, the shot’s there,” Barzal said. “If it’s not, I want him to make a play. I don’t want him to limit himself to being a shooter. I just want him to play free.”

For more on the Islanders, Mathew Barzal, and Oliver Wahlstrom, visit AMNY.com





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