While the NY Islanders ended up avoiding the Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, make no mistake, the Isles have a tough task ahead of them with the Carolina Hurricanes. Isles fans should remember back in the 2018-19 season when the blue and orange were swept by Carolina in the second round of the playoffs.
Islander fans shouldn't feel overly confident playing the Hurricanes. While Carolina sputtered a little bit down the stretch, they still won the Metropolitian division and finished second in the NHL with 113 Points. The Isles are going to have to be at their best if they are going to win this series.
Carolina is really tough at home registering a 28-10-3 record this season at PNC Arena. Last year in the postseason, the Hurricanes went 7-1 in their playoff home games. When 'Canes fans pack out their barn, it almost has that Coliseum feel to it.
With the Hurricanes having home-ice advantage, if this series goes to a Game 7 (there's a strong chance that will happen) the Isles will have to win in a very tough and loud environment. Winning Game 7's on the road is no easy task and the Islanders' road record this season isn't overly encouraging at 17-18-6 this season. As for Game 7's, it wasn't long ago that the Isles lost 1-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals unable to register a goal in Amalie Arena. However, the 'Canes aren't the Lightning. The NY Rangers won a Game 7 in Carolina last postseason in the second round of the playoffs, and with Carolina without Andrei Svechnikov, the Islanders have the opportunity to take advantage of a team without one of their best players.
We all know the Isles' power play has struggled mightily this season, especially since Mathew Barzal has been out of the lineup. The Isles finished with the third worst power-play this season at 15.8% during the regular season. Conversely, the Canes finished with the second-best penalty-killing unit at 84.4%. That's really all the proof you need to see that as far as special teams go, it's not a favorable match-up for the Islanders. However, the Isles got good news on Friday that Barzal plans to play in Game 1 of the playoffs, which should bode well as he and Bo Horvat formed some serious chemistry in their small sample size.
It's not likely the Islanders' power play will surge to the likes of the Edmonton Oilers who finished first overall on the man advantage this year at 32.4%. However, when the Isles get their power-play opportunities they'll have to be much better than the lowly 15.8% of chances they converted this season.
If the Isles continue to operate at their current efficiency it's going to be that much harder for them to beat Carolina or advance very far in the playoffs.
The 'Canes Strong Depth
Even without Svechnikov Carolina had 12 players with double-digit goals in the 2022-23 season (10 with 13 or more). Carolina's depth scoring is one of the things that makes them so tough to beat.
Their defenseman are a big part of their offense as well. Brady Skeji matched Brent Burns with 18 goals during the regular season. Also, deadline acquisition Shane Gostisbehere scored 13 goals this season between the Arizona Coyotes and the Canes. The Islanders leading scorer on the blue line is Noah Dobson with 13.
Make no mistake the Isles have a tall task ahead of them. Their odds greatly improve now that Barzal is indeed ready to go for Game 1, but Alexander Romanov's questionable status leaves a big hole in the Islanders' lineup.