Editorials

Islanders 3 keys to eliminating the Florida Panthers in Game 4

The New York Islanders stand on the ice during the national anthem (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
The New York Islanders stand on the ice during the national anthem (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images) /
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What do the New York Islanders need to do in order to eliminate the Florida Panthers in Game 4?

The New York Islanders will have one more chance to eliminate the Florida Panthers today. As Nick Leddy said after the Isles 3-2 loss in Game 3, closing out teams on the brink of elimination are the hardest games to play.

But it seemed that the result of Game 3 was less of the Panthers winning and more of the Islanders failing.

With one more chance to close out the Panthers before the series shifts to a lose-and-go-home Game 5, there are three keys the Isles need to adhere to in order to pick up the ‘W’.

-Don’t be dumb
-Kill a penalty
-Waking up the top line

No Dumb Mistakes

The Florida Panthers had five power-play opportunities in Game 3. They converted on two of them for a 40 percent efficiency in the game.

The two penalties that the Florida Panthers converted on were a too-many-men on the ice penalty in the second period and then a playing-the-puck-in-the-trapezoid penalty in the opening seconds of the third period.

Both were careless penalties that didn’t need to happen. Eliminate those mistakes from the Islanders game on Wednesday and Game 4 doesn’t happen.

Penalty Kill, Please

Of the Panthers, six goals in this series three have come on the power play. The only reason the Panthers are still alive in this series is because of their power play.

And the Islanders know this. They’ve done a pretty good job at limiting the Panthers power play opportunities. Of the 24 teams that are played in the postseason/round-robin, the Panthers have the fifth least power-play time with 13:45 of man-advantage time.

The Islanders could perform better when on the disadvantage. Through three games in this series, the Islanders hold a 66.7 percent efficient penalty kill. Only the Chicago Blackhawks are worse at 58.3 percent.

And it’s not like this has been an issue all year long for the Isles. Through the 2019-20 season, the Isles held an 80.7 percent efficiency (ranked 15th in the NHL).

Through the regular season, the Islanders did a great job of limiting the number of shots allowed. Only the Blue Jackets and Flyers allowed fewer shots against on the PK than the Islanders 255 shots against.

In Game 3, the Panthers put 22 pucks on net. Ten of those shots came on the power play. Almost half of the Panthers offensive output came on the man advantage. Clamping down on that will go a long way to progressing to the next round.

Life From the Top

Outside of Jordan Eberle‘s two goals in Game 2, the Islanders top line of Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, and Eberle has been ineffective. After the loss in Game 3, head coach Barry Trotz indicated that there could be changes made to the lineup.

One such change could be placing Anthony Beauvillier, who’s been the Isles MVP through this series, on the top line alongside Mathew Barzal. Getting Barzal going is imperative for the Islanders to have success in the postseason. With Beau firing on all cylinders, putting the two together seems like the right call.

Anders Lee would then play with fellow veterans Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey on the second line. I’ve often talked about the inherent chemistry between Lee and Bailey, placing them together could be yet another offensive advantage for the Islanders.

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Of course, Barry could simply be talking about swapping Tom Kuhnhackl for Ross Johnston instead of adjusting his top two lines who’ve been largely ineffective in this series. Kuhnhackl played 7:56 in Game 3 and wasn’t much of a factor. It would be very on-brand for Trotz to swap the two rather than make a swap up top.

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