Islanders: Five key players that need to step up vs Florida Panthers
Adam Pelech is the Isles’ top defenseman and proved to be a huge part of the team’s success after he went down with an Achilles injury this past January 2nd.
Before Pelech went down, the Isles were atop the NHL with a 25-10-3 record. Without Pelech, the Isles went 9-13-6 and dropped out of a playoff spot.
Pelech played in key moments and big minutes, averaging 21:08 of ice time per game (second behind Ryan Pulock‘s 22:24).
Because of his injury, rookie Noah Dobson was forced to play nearly every game — probably before he was ready to. It was obvious Trotz wasn’t comfortable playing Dobson as he only played in certain situations and it seemed the Isles were only using five defensemen most games.
As a result, the team struggled defensively and decided to trade 22-year-old AHL defenseman David Quenneville and a 2021 second-round pick for former New Jersey Devils’ captain, 37-year-old defenseman Andy Greene.
Greene somewhat fixed the Isles’ defensive woes, but he just didn’t have the same impact that Pelech had.
Now with Pelech back from injury, I’m expecting the Isles to be able to hold the Panthers to two goals or less a game. However, this all depends on if Pelech is 100% healthy.
Hopefully, he is because he and Pulock will be given the grueling task of shutting down Florida’s top line of Frank Vatrano, Aleksander Barkov, and Evgenii Dadonov.
As the saying goes, defense wins championships. So, if Pelech can play at the same level before his injury, expect the Isles to beat the Panthers and go deep into the playoffs this season.