Losing Mathew Barzal could be the final dagger in a roller-coaster season for the New York Islanders.
Despite hovering a playoff spot, the teams around New York have games in hand. If the Islanders were going to sneak into the playoffs, the top players would have to carry this team.
Without Barzal, on top of a handful of injuries already, head coach Lane Lambert needs some of the players who have been passengers as of late to become conductors if the Islanders are going to have a chance.
“It’s clearly a big hole for us in certain areas, but what it means is other guys have to step up to the plate,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said.
In regards to Holmstrom, a rookie with three goals and an assist in 31 games, he has found himself with limited minutes in three of the last four games.
NYI Hockey Now asked Lambert, before the Boston Bruins game, what more he had to see from his young forward to keep him more involved.
“It’s a little bit circumstantial, but I would like to see more out of Simon. I think there’s more there. And you know, we’ll leave it at that,” Lambert said.
In Barzal’s absence, Holmstrom will skate on the top line alongside Anders Lee and Bo Horvat, which is a critical opportunity for the young forward to show that he can bring more offense at the NHL level.
“We talked recently about him and wanting more from him,” Lambert said. “This is an opportunity for him to give more.”
“He’s a very responsible guy. He’s good defensively, and I would imagine they will probably play against Crosby tonight.”
When Holmstrom was first recalled, he showed off his defensive prowess early, helping to shut down Connor McDavid and Leon Draistailt in a 3-0 shutout victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 23.
It took until game 11 for Holmstrom to tally his first NHL goal, which came against the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 17 in a 5-2 victory. And in the games that followed, Holmstrom started to show more of an offensive touch, even if the points were hard to come by.
The confidence was there, and that confidence, unfortunately, led to an injury that many believed could have been season-ending when he was hit in the knee by Florida Panthers forward Sam Bennett in a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Dec. 23.
Holmstrom missed the next six games before returning to the lineup.
However, given the lack of practice time with the Islanders out west once the new year began, Holmstrom wasn’t at his best when he returned.
He seemed a bit nervous to go into corners, go in hard on the forecheck, and that led to him being a healthy scratch on Jan. 23, in a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins, as top prospect William Dufour slotted into his place.
That move backfired, and Holmstrom was back in the lineup the next night in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
As mentioned, Holmstrom has just one goal over his 10 games, but that one goal, which came in a 4-0 shutout won over the Seattle Kraken on Feb. 7, showed Holmstrom’s offensive potential.
— nopClips (@nopClips) February 8, 2023
“In terms of the finish, that’s the key,” Lambert said following that win. “He got the puck, and he put it away, so he showed great poise doing that.”
In the game prior, a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, Holmstrom had a similar chance to score but did not. Lambert was asked if Holmstrom was doing a stronger job at finding space and reading the plays in front of him.
“Before he got hurt, he was coming along, and then that set them back a little bit. I think it’s just a matter of him continuing to progress and just, you know, I think he’ll continue to get better and better.”
The New York Islanders season hangs in the balance of players like Simon Holmstrom and others stepping up, starting tonight.