After sweeping the Penguins in the first round, it will be ten days since the Islanders last played when they take the ice for Game 1 against the Hurricanes on Friday night. The Isles have spent a significant amount of time practicing and getting healthy over this long break and will look to get their legs going early at home in Game 1. While we wait for puck drop, let’s take a look at both teams:
Isles: Although the Isles were very inconsistent on offense in the regular season, they had very solid production in the first round of the playoffs. The production of the top-six forwards was a major question mark heading into the first round, but the Isles shut up the doubters, as they got excellent numbers from Jordan Eberle, Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey, and Brock Nelson. Eberle led the Isles in goals with four, as he scored a goal in every game. Mathew Barzal had five assists in the first round.
Hurricanes: The Hurricanes offense is led by young stars such as Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov, though the status of Svechnikov is up in the air after he was knocked out by Alexander Ovechkin in the first round. Warren Foegele led them with four goals in their first-round series. Veteran Jordan Staal also had a solid first-round series with three goals and three assists.
Isles: The storyline of the regular season was how the Isles went from worst to first in team goals allowed, and certainly didn’t let up in the playoffs. The Isles allowed only one goal in three of the four games in the first-round and proved once again that they have one of the top defenses in the NHL. The Isles will be without Johnny Boychuk for the majority of this series, as he is out with with a lower-body injury, but luckily the Isles have veteran Thomas Hickey ready to step in and join Nick Leddy. Hopefully, the Isles will not miss Boychuk so much and Hickey will be able to step up and fill his role.
Hurricanes: The Hurricanes also have a very solid defense, and finished the regular season in the top ten in the NHL in GAA, allowing just 2.70 goals per game. One storyline heading into the series will be that former Islander Calvin de Haan will be going up against his former team in this second-round series. The Hurricanes get a lot of offense from their defenseman, as Jaccob Slavin led the Hurricanes in points with 9 assists in the first round. Justin Faulk is another big name on their blue-line who will look to contribute.
Isles: Robin Lehner has been fantastic this season, and had a fantastic four games, posting a 1.47 GAA and a .956 save percentage, both the best among postseason goaltenders. He made some incredible saves in the first round and will look to keep that going into the second round.
Hurricanes: Petr Mrazek had an up and down first round series against the Capitals. He posted a 2.54 GAA and a .899 save percentage, both underwhelming numbers. He made some good saves but also looked shaky at times. The Isles will look to get to him early and make him uncomfortable.
I think this will be a very interesting series because of the fact that these are two teams that are playing for one another and are trying to prove people wrong. I think that if the Islanders play a physical game against the Hurricanes and frustrate them in their offensive zone, they can come out on top in this series. I expect the Hurricanes to be a little tired after their exhausting seven-game series that ended in double overtime on Wednesday night, and I think the long break will benefit the Isles, leading to them winning the series.
Isles in six games.