Now or never for Islanders
The Islanders have to play better at Raleigh than they have in Games 1 and 2 or else this series will be a short one for them.
Moment of truth arrives for the Islanders.
As the Eastern Conference semifinals goes to Raleigh for Games 3 and 4, the Islanders must do it the hard way now of winning the series by winning both games there after losing two games at Barclays Center. It won’t be easy since the Carolina Hurricanes have yet to lose in the playoffs at PNC Arena.
It is not hyperbolic to say the Islanders have to win Game 3. Chances are not good for them to come back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Hurricanes, even though it’s possible. For them to make this a series, it starts Wednesday at Raleigh.
One shift. One goal. One day at a time. 60 minutes of hockey. All those cliches turn into desperation now. It means the Islanders have to be the better team on the ice, which they haven’t in the first two games of the series. Now or never for them.
The Islanders talk about this series being far from over, and no one can argue. But time is of the essence. Whatever room for error the Islanders had has been vanished. The better team plays better as the series goes on. No doubt the Hurricanes feed off from confidence from winning Game 7 of the first round against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals and winning the first two games of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Islanders must finish their scoring chances. Rather than pass, they should be shooting. Their execution on the power play should be creating better results. Time has come now to stop talking about how many chances they had and how they need bounces to score. They know they need to step up their play.
The Islanders blew it in Game 2 by not scoring a goal against Carolina Hurricanes backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who relieved Petr Mrazek in the second period after the Hurricanes starting goaltender injured his groin. Holes opened up for the Islanders to score, and they didn’t get it done. Scott Mayfield whiffing on a chance to score stood out in the second period, and that turned out to be the turning point of the game.
They can live with the result in Game 1. They can’t in Game 2 when they failed to execute.
Game 3 should be about the Islanders playing with explosiveness and discipline. Managing a fine line between opening up and playing close to the vest becomes a paramount for the Islanders to win a game they desperately need.
No more about surviving. No more about getting by. It’s about giving the Hurricanes all they got in Raleigh.
The Islanders can start out well by scoring a power-play goal like they did in the first period of Game 2 when Mat Barzal scored a power-play goal to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead. They could use more of that to have a chance to win the series.
The Islanders also should try to make it messier in the paint. As in create situations such as deflections and hit those tip shots that Mrazak or McElhinney don’t have time to react.
The Islanders best players such as Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle and Anthony Beauvillier need to play like their best players in this series. They had hits and misses in scoring. Those guys must finish their scoring chances.
They also can learn how to finish with a lead. In the third period with a lead, the Islanders should be amping up their play.
The bottom line means the Islanders must do whatever it takes to be better than Games 1 and 2. No more excuses anymore. No more about the lack of energy at Barclays Center. No more about the ice there.
Being on the road helps the Islanders in a sense they can feed off the energy from what should be a raucous crowd at PNC Arena. Players can focus on playing hockey rather than worrying about distractions or trying to play perfect at home.
Once in for all, the Islanders must play like they are the favorites. They are a better team on their own merit based on their play in the regular season and their sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Lack of assertiveness has been missing in these two games.
They should be embracing the favorite role rather than playing the underdog role like they have all season.
The Islanders embraced adversity all season. They talked a good game and backed it up with their play. They can show how they applied all these lessons now.
These next two games at Raleigh determines now if they have what it takes to beat the Hurricanes.