If Friday night’s overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes proved anything, it is that the New York Islanders will need more than just a good defense to advance in the second round.
It must be a complete team effort from the Islanders and it wasn’t in the 1-0 loss in Game 1 and that means taking their chances in front of the net.
It was Jordan Staal at 4:04 into overtime, who ended the Islanders hopes of a lead to start this series. New York was sloppy offensively against Carolina but tidy defensively, frustrating a team that has scored 21 goals so far this postseason.
At the end of the day, the Islanders struggled to put the puck in the back of the net. Their movement was stale, as evidenced by a third period power play where they showed very little push. They had their chances as any home team in the playoffs will likely get but they simply weren’t sharp in their handling or their passing.
Against a Carolina team that isn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut, they averaged 2.96 goals per game, sixteenth best in the league, the Islanders simply need to take more chances.
Coach Barry Trotz wasn’t in panic mode after his team’s first loss of the playoffs. “It’s Game 1, they didn’t win the series. We have to respond back,” but he made it clear that this team has to get better.
“There will be subtle changes, maybe some movement in a line or something,” Trotz said. “I don’t think we have to change a whole lot. If we had converted on some of our chances early, maybe it’d have been a different story.”
The Hurricanes came into the playoffs off a fourth place finish in the Metropolitan Division and the Islanders had owned their opponent in the regular season, 3-1. New York is heavily favored in this playoff series to advance but as Friday’s Game 1 loss showed, in playoff hockey, the margin for error is much smaller and the Islanders must get some production out of their attackers if they don’t want this series to run away from them.
There was no denying that the Islanders looked rusty in the attack, the 10-day layoff between the conclusion of their first round sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Friday night’s game clearly showing. But it was their defense that gave them a chance, even as they sputtered and sometimes failed to click in front of goal.
Jordan Eberle (one shot on goal) and Mathew Barzal (two shots on goal) were both far less productive and active in front of the net than usual. That must change if the Islanders hope to even the series on Sunday afternoon.
“I don’t know if there’s a lot I learned, it’s a lot of what I expected,” Trotz said. “We had 10 days to look at film, watch games and sort of dissect…As a staff, there’s a couple things I think we can do better and hopefully add to our game.”