Rosner: Bellows Taking Advantage on Barzal Line, Let it Ride

When you get an opportunity to play in the National Hockey League, you have two choices. Either you take advantage and do the things you need to do, or you fail to do what needs to be done, and you don’t last long. For New York Islanders forward Kieffer Bellowshe had not been able to do enough to remain in the lineup.

When Bellows had been in the lineup, which had not been often over the last month, he had been lining up on the Islanders fourth line in Cal Clutterbuck’s spot.

Due to the struggles by Oliver Wahlström as of late, New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz played Kieffer Bellows on Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins on a line with Mathew Barzal and Zach Parise.

Although Kieffer Bellows did not pick up a point in the 6-3 loss, he recorded two shots on goal, six hits, a block, and a takeaway in 11:31 TOI.

Bellows also made a strong play on the Zach Parise tally in the second period, as he filled his lane, taking a Penguins defenseman with him, which created more time and space for Mathew Barzal.

Following that period, Barzal had this to say about how Bellows had played up to that point in the game.

“I think Belly has been good tonight,” Barzal said. “He knows that he’s got to win battles down low, and he’s a shooter, so he’s looking to get pucks to the net, and I think he’s done a great job.

“And just be in the right spot tonight and holding pucks down low, and he’s done a good job all night.”

Trotz must have liked what he saw from Bellows with that line because even with Wahlstrom back in the lineup Friday night against the Montreal Canadiens, Bellows remained on the same line.

And it paid off, as Bellows put together another strong showing, with a secondary assist on the opening tally of the contest, with one shot, six hits, two blocks, and one giveaway in 14:23 TOI.

Bellows’s awareness in the defensive zone early in the second period led to a Zach Parise goal, as he poked a puck off the stick of Canadiens Corey Schueneman inside the New York Islanders blue line. And then, Bellows put on the jets to become a pass option on the 3 on 0.

Again, Bellows is doing the little things that Trotz wants to see, something that Oliver Wahlstrom had not been doing.

In a total of 20:28 minutes together as a line, they have outscored their opponents 2-1. They have taken 15 shots as a line, having allowed 15 of their own, but have had more of the scoring chances (15-11) and high-danger chances (8-6), according to our friends over at Natural Stat Trick.

Now, with Oliver Wahlstrom on that line for 17 games, they scored six goals while allowing six of their own in a total of 49:26 minutes. They were outshot 106-103 but led in scoring chances (91-87) and high-danger chances (42-38).

The difference between Wahlstrom and Bellows is that Bellows is doing more without the puck in a smaller sample size. That’s not to say that Bellows is a better fit alongside Mathew Barzal but re-reading back to what Barzal said about Bellows being in position, that was not something that Wahlstrom was doing as effectively.

The New York Islanders have eight games left in the season, eight games left for evaluation. Kieffer Bellows is a pending RFA that is still trying to figure out how to be consistent at the NHL level. He’s had a rough season staying in the lineup and until he gives Trotz a reason to be taken off the Barzal line, out of the lineup, let him continue to play.

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