With the team struggling to get into a groove and dropping in the Metropolitan Division, the Islanders finally decided to make the change fans had been calling for, firing head coach Lane Lambert and replacing him with Hall of Famer Patrick Roy last month.
New York went 1-2-1 in the first four games under their new head coach, and they head into the All-Star Break sitting in fourth place in the Metro, just one point ahead of a trio of teams tied for fifth, including the New Jersey Devils.
While it’s still just a short time they’ve been together, Islander star center Mathew Barzal has nothing but high praise for the team's new voice behind the bench.
“I mean it's Patrick Roy, three Conn Smythe’s and two Stanley Cups, he truly is the man,” he said Saturday at the All-Star Game. “Just his message early on to our team, it meant a lot to us. I know it’s cliché, but he’s a guy you want to run through a wall for, so I feel like me personally and a lot of our guys, our games really elevated over the past four games.”
Barzal recorded points in three of the team's first four games under Roy, finding the back of the net just once but adding five assists, to increase his total to 51 on the season.
The 26-year-old former first-round pick, who is making his third appearance at the All-Star festivities this weekend, feels he was playing some of his best hockey heading into the break.
"Overall my play is the best it’s been in my career," he said. "Our power play is clicking now, so that’s an extra 10-15 points a year. But I think the last five or six games have been some of the best of my career, and I'm looking to build off of that into the second half."