The New York Islanders took game one against the Florida Panthers in the qualifying round.
It took over 100 days for the New York Islanders to hit the ice after the 2019-20 regular season was suspended. But finally, we were here. Islanders hockey that mattered. The qualifying round against the Florida Panthers was here.
Leading into the game the question was who would start up top, on the blue line, and in nets. We were all pretty sure what was going to happen with the lineup, but Trotz was coy with his lineup and played his cards close this his chest.
Come game time, the Islanders named a standard lineup: 12 forwards with Tom Kuhnhackl getting the nod over Ross Johnston, six defensemen that did not include Andy Greene and Noah Dobson and in net was Semyon Varlamov.
With all the off-ice drama settled, it was time for what everyone was waiting for. Drop the damn puck.
Of course, Pageau set the tone of the game. After a big trade and a big contract that continues to catch some heat from fans around the NHL, all attention was on the former Ottawa Senators center.
Twelve minutes in Jean-Gabriel Pageau put the Islanders on the board after a nifty feed from fellow French-Canadian Derick Brassard.
Ever since Pageau arrived he’s been a breath of fresh air for the Islanders. From scoring to standing up for teammate Michael Dal Colle in his first game for the team.
The Islanders got to play their game through the first period. They suffocated the Panthers who were limited to nine shots (six of them at 5on5) none of them were high-danger opportunities.
Florida decided to make it a war of attrition and brought the physicality in the second period. Early in the second, Johnny Boychuk got hit high and in the head by Mike Matheson. The call was initially given as a five-minute major but after review, it was reduced to a two-minute minor.
While Johnny Boychuk was in the locker room and going through the NHL’s concussion protocol, Anthony Beauvillier made it 2-0 with this much needed power-play goal.
With a 17.3 percent efficiency on the power play through the 2019-20 regular season and then going 0-for-5 in the exhibition game against the Rangers, the Islanders had us all thinking the power play might not be a weapon for them in the postseason. Maybe we don’t have to worry? (Maybe I’m irrationally getting my hopes up.)
Going up 2-0 early in the second was great, but the Islanders took their foot off the gas in the second half as the Panthers routinely found time and space in the Islanders defensive zone.
That momentum continued into the third period, as Jonathan Huberdeau walked into the slot and feed a backhand through Valamov’s five-hole. That goal was 30 seconds into the final frame of regulation.
The Islanders woke up after that goal.
They didn’t score a goal. But they managed out the rest of the game by playing the type of game that has been so successful to date. It could have easily been 4-1 for the Islanders if not for Sergei Bobrovsky making a number of big stops on the Islanders
Going forward, the Islanders have to continue this trend for two more games.
Winners and Losers
1. Anthony Beauvillier: 1G (PP), 4SOG
Beauvillier was everywhere on the ice for the New York Islanders. His forecheck was incredible. His decision making was great. And his reward for his stellar game? A sweet sweet power-play goal.
2. Jean-Gabriel Pageau: 1G, 3SOG, 80% FOW
You saw the goal already, but what you may not have known was how well Pageau was on the draw. Winning eight of his ten draws Pageau was wildly efficient on the dot for the Isles. Yet another factor as to why the Isles wanted him so bad.
3. Sergei Bobrovsky: 27 saves, 0.929SV%
This could have been a blowout if not for Bobrovsky. Coming into the game we thought we’d get a shakey Bob, but in Game 1 Bob was on point.
1. Mike Matheson: 1 bad hit on Boychuk
The fact he only got a minor for that hit was wild. But at least the Isles made them pay for it with that PPG from Pageau.
2. Brock Nelson
This is harsh, but I had a hard time finding three losers. Brock Nelson still had five shots on goal, but Brock should have converted at least one of those shots. Hopefully, the Isles top scorer can do that later in the series.
3. Mike Hoffman and Mackenzie Weegar
Again, this is harsh, but both Hoffman and Weegar were the only two players to have more than one giveaway, with two.