The Boston Bruins are arguably the best team in the NHL to start the 2021 season, having lost just twice in regulation over their first 14 games.
Both of those losses have come at the hands of the New York Islanders, who extended their point streak to six games on Saturday night with a 4-2 victory.
It was their middle-six lines who carried them in their third win in four games. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who centers the third line, accounted for two of the goals while Jordan Eberle added another.
“The Nelson and Pageau lines really carried us through the night and we got contributions through the lineup for the most part,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “Good on them, we needed that.”
Eberle, formerly the right-winger of first-line center Mathew Barzal — who scored the other goal on Saturday night — has spent the last four games flanking a new-look second line of Brock Nelson and Michael Dal Colle; one made of necessity after Anthony Beauvillier went down with a lower-body injury.
The move has sparked one of Eberle’s hottest starts as a pro with three goals over his last four games, amounting to six in 14 games this season.
“He’s obviously very skilled. He can make a lot of plays,” Nelson said of his linemate. “He’s easy to read off of. He finds open spots… finds the soft spot, makes a lot of little plays. When you get that give-and-go, get the puck, make some space in the o-zone, that’s dangerous.”
It remains to be seen if Beauvillier will be ready to return to the Islanders’ lineup for Monday night’s matchup in Buffalo against the Sabres (7 p.m. ET). If he is good to go, it suddenly brings some more offensive flexibility to New York’s lineup.
The second line is performing at too good a rate to split up — at least from an outside perspective — meaning Trotz could flex the streaky scorer in Beauvillier to the left-wing of either the first or third line.