The New York Islanders are back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fourth time in five years after nabbing the final available Wild Card spot with a win in their final game of the regular season.
Nothing like leaving it late.
But the Islanders’ run to the postseason is an impressive accomplishment within itself. With a first-year head coach, they overcame an abysmal stretch in January and the loss of Mathew Barzal in February to finish the season 14-7-2 and ultimately nab the No. 1 Wild Card spot.
Waiting for them in the first round is the Metropolitan Division-winning Carolina Hurricanes, who held off the New Jersey Devils to take the top spot in an attempt to set themselves up for that all-elusive deep playoff run. While this is their fifth consecutive postseason appearance, the Hurricanes have only made it past the second round once, which came in 2019 when they swept the Islanders in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
This time around could provide a much closer matchup considering the similar brands of hockey that these two teams play. But first, here’s a look at the series schedule.
Islanders vs. Hurricanes 1st Round Schedule
|1||Monday, April 17||7 p.m.||PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC||ESPN2|
|2||Wednesday, April 19||7 p.m.||PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC||ESPN2|
|3||Friday, April 21||7 p.m.||UBS Arena, Elmont, NY||TBS|
|4||Sunday, April 23||1 p.m.||UBS Arena, Elmont, NY||TNT|
|5*||Tuesday, April 25||TBD||PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC||TBD|
|6*||Friday, April 28||TBD||UBS Arena, Elmont, NY||TBD|
|7*||Sunday, April 30||TBD||PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC||TBD|
Islanders vs. Hurricanes Tale of the Tape
|42-31-9 (93 points)||Record (Points)||52-21-9 (113 points)|
|15.77%||Power Play %||19.76%|
|82.19%||Penalty Kill %||84.38%|
Why the Islanders can win
Ilya Sorokin: The Islanders’ fate most likely relies on their goaltender and Ilya Sorokin is good enough to steal this series. A likely finalist for the Vezina Trophy, the 27-year-old was New York’s workhorse this season, going 31-22-7 with a .924 save percentage, a 2.34 goals-against average, and a league-leading six shutouts.
Mathew Barzal is back: And not a moment too soon, either. The Islanders’ top playmaker missed the remainder of the regular season after suffering a lower-body injury on Feb. 18 against the Boston Bruins, which looked like the final blow to the team’s playoff hopes. But the squad’s depth not only kept it afloat but got it into the playoffs where a reunited first line of Barzal and Bo Horvat suddenly makes the Islanders look like a much more imposing bunch.
The Andrei Svechnikov effect: While the Hurricanes were the second-best team in the entire NHL behind the powerhouse Bruins this season, they’ve looked entirely beatable at times after losing star forward Andrei Svechnikov to a season-ending knee injury last month. Over their final 17 games of the season, they went a mediocre 9-7-1 while averaging just 2.8 goals per game.
Projected Islanders Lines
Anders Lee – Bo Horvat – Mathew Barzal
Pierre Engvall – Brock Nelson – Kyle Palmieri
Zach Parise – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Hudson Fasching
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech – Ryan Pulock
Sebastian Aho – Scott Mayfield
Samuel Bolduc – Noah Dobson
Why the Hurricanes can win
An edge in firepower: Even without Svechnikov, the Hurricanes boast the ever-dangerous Sebastian Aho (not the Islanders’ defenseman) coming off a team-leading 36-goal season and Martin Necas, who boasted 28 goals of his own. But what sets Carolina’s offense from the Islanders’ is the power play. New York’s man-advantage unit finished the season going just 6-for-57 (10.5%). The Hurricanes’ power play flirted with a 20% success rate this season.
Playing the Islanders’ game… better: While the Islanders have built the reputation of being a defensive hockey team over the past five years, the Hurricanes have been just as solid during that stretch. This year, they’ve been even better. They’ve allowed just 210 goals during the regular season, seven fewer than the Islanders, and second-fewest in the league to the Bruins. Not only is Carolina’s blue line resolute, but it provides plenty of offensive support, too with the likes of Brent Burns (61 points) and Shayne Gostisbehere diving into the attack.
Frederik Andersen: The Hurricanes goalie will fly under the radar this series against Sorokin, but the veteran has a solid playoff record and will finally get to play behind a competent defense in the playoffs after missing last year due to injury and years with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 33-year-old possesses a career playoff save percentage of .916 with a 2.55 goals-against average
Projected Hurricanes Lines
Tuevo Teravainen – Sebastian Aho – Seth Jarvis
Stefan Noesen – Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Martin Necas
Jordan Martinook – Jordan Staal – Jesper Fast
Jack Drury – Paul Stastny – Jesse Puljujarvi
Jaccob Slavin – Brent Burns
Brady Skjei – Brett Pesce
Shayne Gostisbehere – Jalen Chatfield