The first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is finally over. Another Game 7 in the books. This time involving two Metro Division teams. Now that the defending champs, three teams remain from the Metro Division trying to win the Stanley Cup. With Columbus taking on Boston, let’s go inside this Stanley Cup Notebook to preview how the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes matchup.
NHL Metro Division Notebook: Islanders and Hurricanes Set to do Battle
After winning Game 7 in double overtime over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals, the Carolina Hurricanes are set to take on the New York Islanders. Nobody expected either team to be here, but just like in the West, the teams left in the East, especially from the Metro Division were fighting for something towards the end of the season.
After sweeping the Penguins in four games, the Islanders would take to the ice for the first time in 10 days. This is a long layoff for a team that was playing really well. This layoff could affect the Islanders especially in Game 1. Speaking of Game 1, instead of playing at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders will return to the Barclays Center. Changing routines in the playoffs is never good for hockey players. And with the way the Coliseum was rocking in the first round, the Islanders hope that electricity carries over to the Barclays Center.
On the other side of the coin, PNC Arena in Raleigh was electric as well. Carolina fed off the energy from the crowd. This allowed Carolina to win all three games against Washington on home ice. These two teams are similar in that aspect. If the road team can take the crowd out of it from the start, they will have success.
Another aspect that makes these two teams very similar is the defensive structure. Both teams are very hard to play against. Both defenses are ranked near the top of the league in the playoffs. A lot of that has to do with their bench bosses. Neither team will back go away either. That has to do a lot with the players on the team along with their mental stability.
Speaking of coaching, Barry Trotz, who should be nominated for the Jack Adams Award, has completely turned around the Islanders. New York went from one of the worst defensive teams to one of the best. Trotz brought form to the function. He put in a system that fit the players on the team. The players bought in and this has allowed the Islanders to have success. Just look what the Islanders defense did to a high powered Pittsburgh Penguins team in the first round.
While Trotz is getting a ton of credit, the forgotten man has been Rod Brind’Amour. Brind’Amour brought a new philosophy to the Hurricanes. Gone are the days of being satisfied with just being average. Expectations are high in Carolina. Everyone expected this team to make the playoffs the last couple of years. All it took was a change in philosophy where the coach was expecting his players to play as he did during his career.
An element of a good defense is good goaltending. Both Robin Lehner and Petr Mrazek were being questioned coming into their respective series. On one hand there is Lehner, who bounced back after battling mental health. He and Thomas Greiss led the Islanders to the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed. Mrazek split time with Curtis McElhinney. Out of the eight remaining goalies, Mrazek has the worst save percentage. If both goalies struggle, they have suitable backups to put in.
On offense, both teams have been scoring goals by committee. While no one player has stood out, Jordan Eberle of the Islanders, had his coming out party. Eberle recorded six points in the first round series including four goals. This was the first time in the playoffs, Eberle had done anything. In his previous time in the playoffs, he did not record a single point for the Oilers. Matthew Barzal is always a threat to score when he is on the ice. Considering the way the Islanders roll four lines, the top players will be fresh near the end of the game.
As with the Islanders, Carolina also rolls four lines. Leading the way for Carolina is Sebastian Aho. Just like with Barzal, Aho can make magic when the puck is on his stick. Let’s not forget about the veteran leadership on this team too. Justin Williams has experience in the playoffs. Also, Jordan Staal knows what it takes to win. This mix continues to guide the Hurricanes to success. It will be interesting to see how each team matches their lines against the other.
Game 1 is set for Friday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Notes: Defenseman Johnny Boychuk is out up to four weeks with a lower-body injury. Islanders won the season series 3-1 over Carolina, but most of those games happened earlier in the season. Both Michael Ferland and Andrei Svechnikov remain out of the lineup for Carolina and could available at some point in the series.