New York Islanders Keys To Success Following 5-4 Victory In Game 1

Was the New York Islanders victory over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night huge? Absolutely. Could they have played better? You better believe it.

Pierre Turgeon roamed the ice the last time the New York Islanders advanced to the second round.

Following a nerve-wracking 5-4 victory over the Florida Panthers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Divisional Semi-Finals, the Isles are three games away from potentially doing just that.

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While the Isles did come out victorious, the Rink Rats exploited some of their weaknesses. Jack Capuano will need to head back to the drawing board if his team looks to steal game two.

Here’s what the Isles need to do:

Gap control

In the first period, Calvin de Haan exemplified exactly what the Isles need to do: control the gaps. In non-hockey lingo, that means a defenseman knowing the distance between the puck carrying forward and himself, and making a play at the right time.

If the forward can’t gain entry into the Isles’ defensive zone (just like Jaromir Jagr wasn’t able to do when de Haan intercepted the puck in the neutral zone), they can’t apply consistent pressure and pepper Thomas Greiss with shots.

Stretch/outlet passing

The Rink Rats did a solid job of stretching the ice and creating odd-man rushes. For the Isles to improve in this regard, they’ll need their forwards to better control the puck.

Additionally, the blueliners need to hold their ground on these odd-man rushes. It’s imperative that they commit to a forward (for instance, on a two-on-one early in the game, Calvin de Haan was too indecisive, which boded well for a Panthers goal).

Centering passes

The Cats did a tremendous job of keeping the puck in their offensive zone courtesy of a slew of consecutive slick passing sequences. They turned the Isles’ blueline upside down and wrecked some havoc.

It’s scary to think that the South Paws scored a quartet of goals and didn’t even receive contributions from guys like Alexander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. The boys in blue and orange will need to be stronger in center ice than they were on Thursday night.

Breakouts

While the Dump and Chase may have worked, it would be nice to see the Isles once-in-a-while attempting an odd-man rush on the break out. This was on full display at the end of the game, when they failed to sustain any pressure on the power play.

Howitzer and Stickwork

It’s this simple: Ryan Pulock and Johnny Boychuk need to throw the puck at the net. Especially on Thursday night, where everything was an adventure for Roberto Luongo, every biscuit on basket counts.

John Tavares also exhibited tremendous stickwork and puck control. There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that if the captain keeps it up, the Isles will go far.

Deflections

The Anders Lee injury plagued the Isles in front-of-the-net in Game 1, but it was the team’s struggles in the defensive zone that is most worrisome.

The South Paws did a solid job of screening Greiss, deflecting pucks and controlling the tempo of the contest.

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Justin Weiss is a staff editor at Elite Sports New York, where he covers the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Cyclones. In 2016, he received a Quill Award for Freelance Journalism. He has written for the Long Island Herald, FanSided and YardBarker.