Scott Mayfield was rarely the sort of defenseman to build a reputation as an offensive facilitator from the backend over his previous eight years for the New York Islanders.
He never scored more than five goals in a season, never had more than 20 points, and never put more than 104 shots on goal.
Needless to say, this is a very different version of Mayfield that the Islanders are seeing in 2022-23.
Nine games into the campaign, the 30-year-old blueliner has already matched last season’s total of three goals, including the Islanders’ fourth in their comeback, 5-4 thriller of a win over the defending Stanley Cup-champion Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night at UBS Arena.
“It’s not something that I focus on too much,” Mayfield said. “My biggest objective is to be in the D-zone, making sure penalty kills are good. That’s where I like to make sure my game is at, but it’s nice to contribute offensively.
“We’ve had some shifts where we were able to keep some O-zone pressure, we’ve had some good rushes, and have been able to jump up in and make some plays.”
This is as aggressive a version of Mayfield as there has been at the NHL level. He has 15 shots on goal through nine games, which is an 82-game pace of 136 shots — well past his current career high.
“I think we’re going D to D a little bit less on the blue line,” Mayfield said. “Trying to get more pucks toward the net. Our forwards are getting up to us quick and they’re crashing the net. When we see them crashing the net, it’s a little easier for us to shoot it. Definitely an emphasis on getting pucks there.”
Consider it the byproduct of head coach Lane Lambert’s new offense. Defensemen have accounted for nine goals already this season. No other team in the NHL has as many goals from blueliners.
But it’s the defensemen’s willingness to make their way toward the net at times that is proving to be one of the largest differences between this year’s version of the Islanders and those of years past.
Two of Mayfield’s three goals this season have come right near the crease, a place you’d hardly find an Islanders defender over the last four seasons. It’s a fine line to toe, but it’s one predicated on trust from Lambert dedicated to his defensemen like Mayfield.
“I think it’s finding the right time to do it,” Mayfield said. “It’s been part of my game a little bit. I like coming down that backside but you have to make sure you’re not caught down low… It just depends on the situation.
“Sometimes it feels like the right time to do it. You look over, you see you have support, we have pressure on them, their guys look tired. Other times, it looks like you’re supposed to, you go down there, the puck ends up getting behind you, and it’s a 2-on-1 the other way.”