For the second year in a row, the New York Islanders have won a playoff series, this time besting the Florida Panthers in the first to three wins qualifying round. Heading into the series, the Isles were the 7th Seed and Florida was the 10th seed. Despite New York being a higher seed, many thought this was going to be a tight series.
On paper, the Panthers matchup well with the Islanders. Panthers star and captain Alexsander Barkov plays a defensive style of hockey much like the Islanders do, and their Power Play was deadly this season. Additionally, Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (recently signed to a 7 year, 70 million dollar contract) is a two time Vezina winner, though he didn’t replicate those numbers in his first season with the Cats.
From the first drop of the puck, the Islanders dominated 5v5, and continued to do so throughout the series. They fore checked well, and wouldn’t allow Florida out of the zone easily. Bobrovsky was great for Florida, single-handedly keeping them in every game that series, but his miraculous saves weren’t enough to push the Panthers past the Islanders, who won in 4 games.
Trade Deadline acquisition Jean-Gabriel Pageau was one of the Islanders best players this series, netting 3 goals, including the first and last goals of the 4 games. He and the “third line” were key contributors to the Islanders’ 5v5 domination, due to their relentless forecheck. Additionally, Anthony Beauvillier was excellent throughout the series, netting 3 goals and 5 total points in the 4 game series. He was their best player, mainly because of how he utilizes his speed on the forecheck. He constantly was creating chances for his team, which ultimately rewarded him with a couple of goals.
There is not a lot of negativity to take from a series that the Islanders dominated, but one area that the Islanders could work on is the Penalty Kill. Four of Florida’s 7 goals this series (a fifth was scored seconds after a Power Play) were Power Play goals. If the Isles want to go far in these playoffs, they need to work on their Penalty Kill, which they ranked 15th out of 31 teams on this year.
With a win on Friday, the Isles punched their ticket to the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and will play the 3rd seed of the Round Robin, which will be either the Bruins or the Capitals, depending on the winner of their game on Sunday.