The New York Islanders cruised to a Qualifying Round series win with huge performances from three key players.
The New York Islanders are advancing to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Although the Florida Panthers didn’t go down without a fight, they were no match for the Isles. New York took care of business in four games and there were a few obvious stars in the series.
First things first, let’s give Semyon Varlamov his due here. He narrowly misses the list here, but his contributions shouldn’t be overlooked. Varlamov didn’t stand on his head in this series, but he was rock solid in net. Most notably, the Russian netminder outplayed the $70 million man for the Panthers—Sergei Bobrovsky.
Devon Toews stepped up in a big way against the Panthers. The young defenseman notched four points, all assists, and provided solid defense in front of Varlamov. He helped hold down the fort after Johnny Boychuk went down in Game 1.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau is the biggest snub from our list. He was tied with a team-leading three goals in the series and played a crucial role in a Game 1 victory. Trading for Pageau at the deadline is paying off for team president Lou Lamoriello.
Third Star — Mat Barzal
Mat Barzal made a late charge to make this list. He was quiet through the first few games of the series, but made a huge impact in the decisive game. The young All-Star garnered a ton of attention from Florida’s defense, opening up the ice for his teammates to go to work.
In that decisive Game 4, Barzal had a beautiful assist to Anthony Beauvillier for the game-winning goal. Later, Barzal buried a scoring chance that gave the Isles a commanding third-period lead. He also led the team with a +4 plus/minus.
Second Star — Ryan Pulock
Ryan Pulock anchored the defense all series and brought his dangerous slapshot to the party as well. The 25-year-old scored a crucial power-play goal in Game 2. His four points put him in a tie with Toews for the most among Isles defensemen.
But perhaps the biggest play from Pulock in the series came on the defensive end. Aleksander Barkov had a wide-open look at the net that would have given the Panthers a shot of life, but Pulock was able to get enough of his stick on it to deflect it high. Insane play from Pulock.
Re-watching some of Game 4. This was a massive play by Ryan Pulock. pic.twitter.com/TTVpkmLv4g
— Danny Small (@dwsmall8) August 9, 2020
First Star — Anthony Beauvillier
This pick was an absolute no-brainer. Anthony Beauvillier was the best player on either team in this series and there isn’t a close second. He made big play after big play after big play. The Panthers simply had no answer for Beauvillier.
He writes “Have Fun” on his stick before every game and he was definitely having fun against Sergei Bobrovsky. Beau led the Isles in goals (three) and points (five), coming up huge whenever his team needed a boost.
— ESNY (@EliteSportsNY) August 7, 2020
— ESNY (@EliteSportsNY) August 4, 2020
The Islanders will try and carry this momentum into the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Washington Capitals—Barry Trotz’s old team. If the Isles are going to stay hot, they need the big dogs like Barzal, Pulock, and Beauvillier to continue playing well. The Caps will represent a much tougher matchup than the Panthers.