Welcome back to our Islanders mailbag where fans can reach out with their questions for amNewYork Sports executive editor and Islanders beat writer, Joe Pantorno.
We pick a handful of pressing topics to delve into in an attempt to provide some clarity that fans starve for during the Stanley Cup Playoffs where information is at a premium and speculation is always running rampant.
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@powerjduq asks: Do you think there’s enough time before the sun fizzles out for the Isles to improve the power play?
JP: They really have no other choice, do they? Despite their 0-for-4 performance with just four shots in Game 1, they looked far more threatening than they had in recent weeks thanks to the return of Mathew Barzal. If Anders Lee had his finishing mitts on, we could have been having a slightly different conversation heading into Game 2 tonight because he had multiple Grade-A chances on the man advantage. However, their third and fourth power plays of the night were alarming and what led Lane Lambert to call the units “stubborn.” There’s too much of a dependency on Barzal or Noah Dobson to carry the puck in the zone, which makes it all the easier for the Hurricanes to plan against. Sometimes simplicity goes a long way and that’s exactly what the Islanders have to start doing: Simplify their game, dump and chase when necessary, and take what Carolina gives to sustain some sort of pressure in their zone.
@fouhystan asks: Why should I be optimistic the Islanders will win the series if they can’t get the power play going?
JP: This might sound silly, but Game 1 is perfect evidence as to why you should be optimistic. The rapport between Barzal and Bo Horvat should only strengthen the more time they’re on the ice to help round out the Islanders’ attack, which has often been hinged on the second and third lines as of late. The goals should come for a team that has done its best work in 5 v. 5 situations this season. Meanwhile, the defense — shorthanded and all with Samuel Bolduc filling in for Alexander Romanov — and Ilya Sorokin (mostly) did well to limit an aggressive Hurricanes team that has had its fair share of offensive issues since Andrei Svechnikov went down. If the Islanders can find a way to score three goals, they should be in the conversation of a win each night for the rest of this series.
@Palladin81 says: How about the fact that 3 power plays for the Hurricanes were bad calls or embellishments by the players… Not saying they wouldn’t have found a way to score but don’t need the refs’ help!
JP: Paul Pierce used to do this thing where every time he would drive to the basket, he would throw his head back and wince in an attempt to draw a foul (I got a front-row seat to that when I was a stringer for the Nets in 2013-14). That’s what some of what the Hurricanes were doing reminded me of in Game 1. That being said, sometimes you have to go that extra bit to help grease the wheels of a power play in a series where scoring will be at a premium (we saw the Islanders stop playing when Mathew Barzal’s stick was slashed in half behind the Hurricanes’ net — and a clear Anders Lee slash go uncalled). As much as fans don’t like it, that’s gamesmanship sometimes. I’d like to think the refs loosen up a bit as the series goes on instead of getting eight penalties per night.
@billyo94 asks: Are there icing stats out there? Because I feel like that is one category the Isles lead the league in by a fair margin.
JP: Surprisingly, they’re not as high up on the list as you might think — and Game 1 certainly helped suggest that at times. According to MoreHockeyStats.com, the Islanders committed 352 total icings in 2022-23, which ranked 12th-most in the league. The Pittsburgh Penguins had the most with 416.
@meltz86 asks: Can the Isles adjust to the Canes’ aggressive forecheck? They knew this was coming but it seems as if they weren’t prepared.
JP: The one thing that the Islanders have consistently struggled with this season is speed. The Hurricanes are fast and they throw it right in your face. The Islanders, on the other hand, aren’t so fast — and the skill level certainly seems to lag at times, too. So, in theory, they should have properly planned for it but it’s one thing to talk about it and something completely different to actually experience it in a postseason setting. The Islanders have seen it up close now and know exactly what to expect now. Adjustments should come tonight. If not, they’re in big trouble.