The Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Islanders faced off Friday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York in Game One of the second round of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. While Islanders fans aren’t all too excited about the team playing the remainder of their playoff games at Barclays Center, the team fared well.
In a battle of goaltending and who would make the first mistake, the game was not decided until overtime on a goal scored by Carolina Hurricanes’ forward Jordan Staal after a wide shot took an aggressive bounce off the boards behind the net and landed on the tape of his stick. The rest was in Staal’s hands as New York Islanders’ goaltender Robin Lehner had no chance of getting over to cover the rest of the net and Staal buried the shot off the bottom of Lehner’s skate. It was the first overtime playoff goal of Staal’s career.
Game Two of the series seemed as if the Islanders could do no wrong, except when the Hurricanes netted their two goals earlier in the third period, and only 48 seconds apart. Other than those two goals the Islanders owned most of the game; however, they still weren’t able to net a goal for themselves as their only goal scored through two games now is an own goal against Hurricanes defenseman, Jaccob Slavin, credited to Matt Barzal to give him his first career playoff goal.
The wins by the Hurricanes means a few things; the biggest is that Carolina now owns home ice advantage for the rest of the series since they now lead 2-0 and have three home games remaining to the Islanders two remaining if the series were extended to 7 games. The Hurricanes also showed their conditioning in the first two games, much like they did in the double-overtime game they played in the nation’s capital on Wednesday night. The Islanders had a 10 day break and should have been well rested, but the Hurricanes had their legs grounded under them and played their game and eventually came out on top in both games. So what does this mean for the rest of the series?
1. The Hurricanes Need to Play Fast. Similarly to the series against the Capitals, the Hurricanes need to play fast. Out of the 8 teams remaining in the playoffs, the Hurricanes are without a doubt one of the fastest and will need to take advantage of that moving forward. Now that the Islanders have been back on the ice at game speed, I expect to see Carolina’s ability to expose weak spots in the Islanders defense more apparent; something that is not expected to happen often against one of the best defenses this season. While the Capitals were more of a grind and grit team, one that wants to play the body as much as possible, game one against the Islanders was a much different style of play. The Islanders are not as big as the Capitals nor do they play the body as much and that could be in the Hurricanes favor as the Hurricanes play with a bit of physicality to go along with their speed.
2. Take Advantage of Scoring Chances When They Arise. Game one was stressful to watch as a fan for either team, as each team was presented with multiple Grade A scoring chances. Unfortunately, neither team was able to capitalize on their opportunities and the game was a bit of a stalemate in the goal column. With two defensive juggernauts, the games in this series are expected to be a chess match for the offenses just like was the case in game one. If the teams can finish some of their scoring chances, fans can expect to see more than a 1-0 or 2-1 finish. While it should not surprise anyone if these teams win with only 2-3 goals, I expect to see a couple of 4-5 goal games once the teams feel each other out.
3. Win Games at Home. With the Hurricanes taking the first two games to take a series lead of 2-0, the Hurricanes are in the driver’s seat. Even if the Hurricanes had not mustered up a win in game two, they would have headed back to Raleigh with home ice advantage. With the Hurricanes being outplayed but stealing a win, they are prime position to sweep the series; something that is highly likely going back to Raleigh with a 2-0 series lead. Carolina is known for having one of the loudest barns in the NHL in the playoffs, and although it has been 10 years since they were at home in the playoffs, the crowds are just as loud and rowdy as ever. The Hurricanes won all three games at home against the Capitals in round one of the playoffs and they are fully expected to perform well at home in this series.
Game notes: Petr Mrazek left the game early (lower body), Trevor van Riemsdyk left the game early (upper body), Saku Maenalanen left the game (upper body).
Scratches: Jordan Martinook (lower body), Michael Ferland (upper body), Andrei Svechnikov (concussion).
Prediction: Hurricanes sweep the series.