Derick Brassard. Otherwise known as “The Notorious BGB.”
It was 1-1, Islanders-Flyers, with time ticking down in the second period when Ivan Provorov attempted to move the puck up the middle out of the zone. But the puck was deflected by an aggressive Leo Komarov before Brassard swooped in to glove it down at the blue line.
Brassard — “Big Game Brass” around these parts — unleashed a shot from the left circle that Carter Hart stopped and put behind the net. And it was there that Brassard, who did not particularly make his bones or establish his reputation by grinding, did just that, grinding down low and winning a puck battle with Matt Niskanen before No. 10 set up Komarov, alone in front, for the 2-1 goal at 19:54.
Of course he did.
That proved to be the winner in Saturday’s 3-1 victory that sends the Islanders into Sunday’s Game 4 with a 2-1 edge in this second-round best-of-seven. The Islanders were the superior team for, say, 30 of the final 40 minutes after the Flyers had seized control and a 1-0 lead in the first period. The Flyers didn’t have the puck nearly enough. The Islanders’ defensive structure remained intact and largely impenetrable. The team’s speed seemed to wear down their opponents. Semyon Varlamov was outstanding when called upon.
Mat Barzal, the wizard between Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle, was divine. The Islanders’ top line dominated the Flyers’ alleged No. 1 trio consisting of Sean Couturier between an all-but-ghostly Claude Giroux and Jacob Voracek. Lee scored a power-play goal in the third period for but the Islanders got their five-on-five goals from Komarov and Matt Martin.
Of course they did.
“We’re not probably blessed with a lot of those top-end guys in terms of heavy, high-offense guys but we have a lot of valuable role players who can contribute,” Barry Trotz said. “Guys feel like they’re a part of it.”
Brassard returned to the lineup on Saturday after having been a healthy scratch for the previous three games with his spot taken by the more physically inclined Ross Johnston. This was something very new for Brassard, who earned his nickname by consistently coming up with big plays in big playoff moments for the 2013-15 Rangers as the Blueshirts’ 1A/1B center.
You know the story from there. To Ottawa in the Mika Zibanejad deal during the summer of 2016. Then to Pittsburgh. Then to Florida. Then to Colorado. Finally, as a free agent last summer to the Islanders, who would become his sixth team in five years.
No longer was it 1A or 1B. Instead, it was to be or not to be an NHL player.
“We have a lot of guys that helped us during the season that are watching in the stands right now,” said Brassard, who has four assists in nine playoff games after recording 32 points (10-22) in 66 regular-season matches. “I mean, I didn’t change anything. I liked the way I played before but my only job was to get ready for my next opportunity.
“Yeah, I wasn’t happy, but it’s team first. That’s the first thing I learned when I came here this summer. We have a really good group of guys here and you just try to move on. You just try to support your teammates. I was lucky enough tonight to help them win a game.”
This is a Lou Lamoriello operation co-produced by Trotz. In their world, there are no small roles and no insignificant role players. Brassard played a majority of his regular season minutes on the line with Anthony Beauvillier and Brock Nelson. His spot on that line is now filled by Josh Bailey.
So it is Brassard on the third line now, getting 11:27 of ice on Saturday skating on the right side with J-G Pageau in the middle and Komarov on the left. The one-time slick center for a finesse team has morphed into a grinding winger for a grinding team. Well, there’s some talent, too.
“I think with Brass, he’s a guy who is really a valuable piece for us,” Trotz said. “I thought the [Washington] series was a little different, I needed a different push and I thought the physical play had amped up in that series so we made a switch there.
“What Brass usually does with us when he gets the opportunity to get back in the lineup, he usually makes the most of it. So I was hoping for that response and he made the most of it.”
Of course he did.
He is The Notorious BGB.
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