Mathew Barzal quipped shortly after Bo Horvat signed his eight-year, $68 million contract extension to stay with the New York Islanders after being acquired from the Vancouver Canucks that the duo was going to “have some time together” to build a relationship.
Barzal, who signed an eight-year extension of his own back in October, is finally provided the prospect of a long-term, consistent linemate rather than the carousel of options that kept circling onto his wing — and the early returns for the partnership seems promising.
“It was great,” Horvat said of his first experience playing alongside Barzal, which comes fast and furious with Tuesday’s clash at UBS Arena with the Seattle Kraken coming 24 hours after they defeated the Flyers in Philadelphia. “[Barzal] has so much skill and he creates so much out there. I was just trying to get the pucks to him and get open. He was finding me… We got some good looks.”
Horvat managed to get four shots on goal in his Islanders debut against the Flyers with two high-danger chances. Meanwhile, Barzal scored his second goal in as many games in the 2-1 victory.
“Any time Bo had the puck, I had confidence he was going to make a good play and he did,” Barzal said. “I really enjoyed it… He just seemed to be in the right spot. He picked off a few pucks and was able to hit me in transition. You can just tell… he’s a really, really good hockey player.”
Leading up to his debut, the newest Islander had made it a point to try and temper expectations with the understanding that he’s learning a new system with new terminology alongside new teammates on the fly in the middle of the playoff hunt. However, Horvat came away mightily impressed by his new linemate.
“He makes it easy to play with,” Horvat said. “For me, it’s just trying to get him the puck and get to open spaces and 99% of the time, he’s going to find you.”
The sooner that yields goals on the board for Horvat and the Islanders, the better. Despite being on a three-game win streak, they’ve were held to under three goals on Monday night for the 13th time in 14 games.
“If I keep giving the puck to Bo and he keeps giving it to me and [linemate Josh Bailey],” Barzal began, “it’s going to go in the back of the net.”