Hurricanes done more to win than Islanders
The Hurricanes played 60 minutes of hockey in Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals while their opponent the Islanders played only 40 minutes.
Don’t look now, but the Islanders are not playing the Pittsburgh Penguins anymore. The Carolina Hurricanes, second-round opponent, present a different challenge than the Islanders’ first-round opponent.
The Hurricanes are bigger, stronger, faster and tougher than the Penguins, and it showed in the first two games of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Credit head coach Rod Brind’amour for having his Hurricanes conditionally fit to play late in the game, which was why the Hurricanes won the game in double overtime in Game 7 against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.
Go ahead and whine about the bad ice at Barclays Center that create bad bounces. If it makes Islanders fans feel better, they can savage the refs for denying Mat Barzal of a goal because of goalie interference in Game 1 or denying Devon Toews of a goal in the second period of Game 2 because it was kicked in by Hurricanes goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who replaced Petr Mrazek in the second period after Mrazek injured his groin. For comic relief, we can blame Hurricanes announcer John Forslund for putting bad juju on the Islanders by announcing the second-round series between the Hurricanes and Islanders on NBC Sports Network.
But here’s the reality: The Hurricanes made more plays in the third period in both Games 1 and 2 to be in a position of taking a 2-0 series lead heading to Raleigh for Games 3 and 4. In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, they scored their first two goals 48 seconds apart to start the third period in taking a 2-1 lead, and eventually went on to win 2-1 on Sunday afternoon.
The Islanders failed to get a second goal that could have made the difference whether it’s Scott Mayfield whiffing on putting the puck past McElhinney in the second period or Jordan Eberle’s shot and Ryan Pulock’s shot hitting the crossbar in the third period or Anders Lee’s followup attempt hit the post and/or the side of the net in the third period.
To not execute when McElhinney begged to be scored on is inexcusable. He offered holes for the Islanders to shoot, and they did not get it done. It’s on them to finish up their scoring chances. This is where they must amp up their play. They need to do better, and they didn’t. Winning teams find a way to get it done as the Hurricanes showed, and losing teams come close but nothing to show for it as the Islanders showed.
In Game 1, the Hurricanes did a great job of suffocating the Islanders defensively, which the Islanders had no room to score and did not generate much chances to score.
The Islanders played like they were step behind the Hurricanes in both Games 1 and 2 in the third period.
Those are the facts to why they are behind 2-0 in this series. Hard for any team to win a Stanley Cup playoff game by playing only 40 minutes. Watching the Islanders in the first period to the third period, they did not have the jump or giddy-up to do anything offensively in the third like they did in the first period to take a 1-0 lead in Game 2 of the second round of the playoffs.
It’s hard to say the Islanders deserve a win in both games when they couldn’t find a way to score a goal past McElhinney. Quite frankly, they haven’t found a way to exploit the Hurricanes’ weakness quite frankly like they did against the Penguins.
They know if they don’t figure it out soon, summer vacation crouches for them.
Adversity becomes part of life in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Islanders have one now, and how they handle it goes a long way in winning this series. They can win two in a row at Raleigh. They have to find a way to match Carolina’s play for all of the game instead of just spurts. They need to score. They have to control the pace of play. It’s simple yet hard to do.
The school of thought offered by some people about the Islanders changing changing goaltenders. That would be a desperate move, and it would offer no solutions. It isn’t about the goaltending. It’s about the Islanders trying to take their play to another level. Islanders Robin Lehner performed as well as he could to put the Islanders in a position to win.
The Islanders have to find a way to win in Game 3. They can start by scoring more than one goal and outplaying the Hurricanes.
If they do, maybe they have a chance.