New York Islanders Owe Jack Capuano For Series Win
The New York Islander’s curse has been lifted, as they have won a playoff series for the first time in a long time.
On Sunday the New York Islanders did something that hasn’t been done by the franchise over the last 23 years; win a playoff series.
The Florida Panthers dominated for a large portion of game six. Being down 3-2 in the series to the Islanders, this game was a must win for the Panthers. With the thought of elimination looming the Panthers took the game to the Islanders. Much of the play was taking place in the Islanders end of the ice.
With 23.2 seconds left in regulation, John Tavares scored his first of the tilt, tying the game and sending it to overtime. In the second period of overtime Tavares broke the curse as put a wrap-around attempt in the back of the net and willing his team into the second round of the postseason.
John Tavares will get a good deal of credit for pushing his team into the final four of the East; as he should. But the coach deserves a lot of credit as well.
Changing A Loosing Hand
After the first three games, the New York Islanders were happy to hold a 2-1 series advantage against the Panthers. But that advantage masked a real problem for the Islanders; Reilly Smith.
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Who knew that a trade between the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers would be such a thorn in the Islanders side? On July 1st the Panthers acquired Smith in a trade with the Bruins, as well as Denis Savard’s contract for Jimmy Hayes.
After just three games Smith already has 8 points (4G, 4A) against the Isles. Meaning he has had a direct influence on 80% of all Panther’s goals in the series up to that point. But over the next three games Smith had zero’s on the points sheet. The difference was the matchup Capuano started using to nullify Smith’s line.
For the first few games, Capuano used the trio of Nikolai Kulemin, Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson against Smith and co. When that wasn’t working he turned to his fourth line with no success. But by game four and after winning two high scoring games Capuano put his top line of John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Frans Neilson out against Smith.
The effect was drastic. Not only was Smith kept off of the scoresheet, but his impact on the flow of the game was significantly reduced.
Coach Capuano’s Corsi Killers
Smith enjoyed some pretty possession numbers against just about every one of the Islander’s lines. But against the Tavares line, Smith and his linemates were unable to generate the same offense.
Against Neilson, Okposo and Tavares, Smiths Corsi was 59.52, 49.54 and 51.43 respectively. Compared to the 71.15, 55.26 and 73.47 against the likes of Nikolai Kulemin, Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey.
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The matchup killed the impact the Smith line had in the series. It also effectively dried up any remaining offense the Panthers had. from games 4 to 6 the Panthers scored four goals, as opposed to the ten in the first three games.
The credit will be heaped on Tavares for scoring two clutch goals to take the Islanders into the second round for only the second time in 23 years, but coach Capuano deserves credit for getting his matchup right.