A pair of home losses has the New York Islanders down but not out of their second-round series heading to Carolina.
The New York Islanders have their work cut out for them if they have any desire to re-enter their second round series against the Carolina Hurricanes.
An uncharacteristically frustrated group of Islanders left the ice after what can only be described as a colossally disappointing Game 2. Every opportunity was in front of the Islanders, who, like in the regular season, lacked any finish on their opportunities.
Statistically speaking, the Islanders absolutely dominated the Hurricanes in chances for through two periods. With over 70 percent in their high-danger chances, the inability to bury the Canes with a multi-goal lead is what doomed them to start the third period.
Not to mull on it for long, but the Devon Toews disallowed goal will spark a controversy heading into Game 3. The NHL determined Toews’s redirection behind the Carolina net was deemed as an intentional kicking motion.
Devon Toews scores a wild one from behind the goal line, but it's ruled a kicking motion and called off. Good goal? 🧐🧐 pic.twitter.com/OtEG3H4G9S
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 28, 2019
The argument here is clearly that Toews was not intentionally kicking the puck into the goal, but rather attempting to re-center the puck into the slot. The Islanders did a good enough job of losing Game 2 on their own, but having this goal disallowed just prior to ending the second period took a lot of steam out of their engine.
What happened to start the third period shut it down entirely.
In Game 3, the Islanders have no margin for error heading into a hostile building in need of their first victory.
"You look at the game tonight, we were much better than we were the night before. This game is incredibly tight. Now we have to go into their building and do what they did to us." @leeberr09 #Isles pic.twitter.com/f9OQYFqdOh
— x – New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 28, 2019
The most frustrating factor in the pair of home losses for the Islanders isn’t even the overall performance, just the results.
Game 1 featured parity on the shot sheet for both teams but that was it. The Islanders have dominated the Hurricanes in the faceoff dot, physicality (88-71 in hits thus far) and even found a powerplay tally with Mathew Barzal’s first-career playoff goal (1/6).
Yet after all their work, the Islanders find themselves down two games heading into an opposing arena putting their mistakes under a microscope. What if Scott Mayfield capitalized on the wrap-around attempt after Curtis McElhinney entered the game? What if Jordan Eberle‘s blast in the third period hit the crossbar a little bit more inside?
The task at hand is daunting for the Islanders, but far from impossible. Barry Trotz was also in an 0-2 deficit with the Washington Capitals in the first round last season. The Capitals were able to win four-straight, and there’s little reason why the Islanders can’t do it too.
No matter how it’s cut, the Islanders were all over the Hurricanes up until the two opposing goals in the third period. For them to find success in Raleigh, they turn to the man they’ve trusted to get them this far — Barry Trotz.
"We know things are going to happen, we just have to respond to it. And I thought we did. We had a lot of chances, but the cruel reality sometimes is you play really well and don’t get the result. But you just stick to the process.” -Barry Trotz #Isles pic.twitter.com/CdPbThskjC
— x – New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 28, 2019
The Carnage Factor
Less than a minute into the first period of the game, Cal Clutterbuck claimed the series’ first victim after steamrolling Trevor van Riemsdyk into the boards. It was ruled later that TVR sustained an upper-body injury and was favoring his wrist.
After making a lateral save in desperation, Petr Mrazek exited the game with an injury and forced an ice-cold Curtis McElhinney into action. McElhinney had not played a game in 22 days and entered the game in the second period making 17 saves for his first playoff win.
In addition to losing two big pieces from their lineup, the Hurricanes have been without all three of Michael Ferland, Andrei Svechnikov and Jordan Martinook. Of the three, there’s a good chance of seeing Ferland and Martinook in Game 3, especially after Martinook took warmups for Game 2.
A three-day break between games nearly guarantees the Hurricanes reinforcements.
Of course, the Islanders can only get help in that department as well with Johnny Boychuk still out after blocking a shot in Game 4 of the first round.
Still, Carolina will be without their starting goaltender and one of their top-four defenseman to start Game 3.
They may be ahead in the series, but the Hurricanes (much like the Islanders so far) will need players who aren’t between the pipes to have monster efforts.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ season ended after a disappointing Game 5 OT loss in Hershey and the Islanders laid eggs offensively in the first two games of their second-round series.
While it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine Trotz makes no adjustments going into Game 3, there’s a very good chance the Islanders can get some help from the farm. After all, Brock Nelson‘s NHL debut was in Game 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013.
Bridgeport’s top scorers during their five-game first-round series are the likely candidates. In all 10 AHL games, Oliver Wahlstrom played he had four goals and seven points, a more than impressive debut, but a debut nonetheless.
Kieffer Bellows struggled as expected in his first full pro season, but managed 12 goals and 19 points in 73 regular season games before netting another two goals and three points in his first five playoff games.
While it’s doubtful, it could also be Josh Ho-Sang who makes his way back to the NHL after a 10-game stint earlier this season.
Whatever the call may be from the management of both Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz, they’ll have a few days off to consider all possibilities. The Islanders are more than capable of taking both games in Carolina and know it’s likely their only option if they want to keep playing playoff hockey.