Had there been fans in the Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night, they would have jumped out of their seats, cheered, and then they would have had to do just take in with amazement with what they had just witnessed.
With the Islanders and Penguins tied at 2-2, Mat Barzal blew past Penguins defenseman Pierre-Oliver Joseph and beat Casey DeSmith for a spectacular tally which was his team leading 5th goal of the season. Barzal had a hunch that that puck was going to rim around the boards and then Islanders Captain Anders Lee made a play along the wall giving Barzal a chance to pounce on the loose puck.
“I just got a full head of steam and knew it was a one on one so I just tried to make a move on him,” said Barzal who extended his points streak to seven games. “Sometimes you get into those spots and you want to pull up but I just put my head down and wanted to try and go right through him so I was fortunate enough to get it upstairs at the end.”
The 23-year-old Barzal signed a new three-year contract during training camp worth $21 million and he is off to a pretty good start this season with those 5 goals to go along with 8 assists for a team leading 13 points. Earlier this season, Barzal was taking too many penalties including one that led to a Flyers game-winning goal in overtime back on January 21st in Philadelphia. Barzal has 24 penalty minutes this season but none in the last three games as the Islanders notched two wins and an overtime loss to extend their points streak to five games.
The Islanders need Barzal on the ice and not in the penalty box because at any moment, he’s capable of the brilliance he showed on that third period goal on Thursday night. He played a terrific 200-foot game and many times was matched up against Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby.
“That’s how you score goals,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz. “You get into that hard area and he’s so skilled and he used his speed. (Barzal) actually had a really solid two-way game. He’s playing against one of the greatest players of this generation for sure so it says a lot about him. He did a real good job. I really liked a lot of things that he did.”
There’s no question that Barzal is the face of the Islanders and it goes without saying that he’s their best player. But the 2018 Calder Trophy winner as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year and the Islanders’ leading scorer in each of his first three seasons is not only one of the fan favorites in Islanders Country but he is also gaining a lot of attention from fans around the league. An example of this is that Barzal is part of FOCO’s “Super Bubble Hockey” bobble series and the two-time NHL All-Stars amazing new bobblehead was released on Friday just one day after his breathtaking goal was seen on sports shows all over North America.
“The Bubble Hockey series was inspired from (last season’s) NHL Playoffs being played inside a bubble and also from the bubble hockey game that many of us played as children,” said Anthony Davino, Marketing Coordinator for FOCO. “Barzal has improved every year he has been with the Islanders and we saw the excitement from the fans when he re-signed. So, we immediately knew we had to give them a Barzal bobblehead.”
The Barzal bobblehead is on a bubble hockey game base and it is controlled by a rod that moves the bobblehead up and down the rink, just like the bubble hockey game. The bobblehead has Barzal in the Islanders’ home blue uniform and there are Islanders logos at center ice on the base as well as on top of the boards on a plastic background.
With the release of this new bobblehead and his soaring popularity, especially within the Islanders’ fan base, “Barzal-Mania” is running wild and it sounds like his likeness along with his name and number 13 are all going to pop up on more items down the road.
“As of now, we have the Barzal “Bubble Hockey” bobblehead, gaiter scarf and face cover,” said Davino. “Barzal has been a top point producer and top scorer for the Islanders and all we hear is how the fans love him. So, yes we plan to release more products of him.”
Barzal is one of the best young players in the National Hockey League and the scary thing is that he continues to get better and continues to grow his overall game. He is an electrifying player that warrants attention from the opposition every game but he’s also one of those players that the fans continue to keep their eyes on because anytime Barzal is on the ice he is capable of great things.
“He makes things happen when he has the puck,” said Islanders Captain Anders Lee. “He always brings something exciting whether it’s plays he’s making or the things he’s saying.”
As the Islanders try to find their way through the early part of the season, it’s hard to imagine where they would be right now without Mat Barzal. His goal on Thursday night is another indication of how his game continues to evolve and he’s only 23 years old so there’s a tremendous amount of upside on the horizon. And once fans are allowed back in the Nassau Coliseum, possibly as soon as later this month, they’ll get to experience the Barzal magic in person again and not just have to watch it on television.