The NY Islanders are focusing on the wrong opponent.
After taking Game 3 at UBS Arena following an emotional Game 2, it felt like the Islanders may have been in control of the series despite still trailing two games to one. However, they found themselves back in the loss column after Game 4 where the Islanders completely erased any momentum they had coming out of Friday. Regardless of your position on the officiating, the Islanders have taken 19 penalties through four games in the series and the Carolina Hurricanes have cashed in six times through four games. With four games completed, it's felt as though the Islanders have been more focused on the officiating than their opponents.
The egregious officiating really began in Game 2 when Scott Mayfield took an obvious high stick and there was no call on the play with the game tied at three.
"We saw Scotty on the ice covering his face," Zach Parise said following Game 2. "I mean, I don't think he stuck himself, but I don't know."
The Hurricanes collected the puck following the missed infraction and scored on an odd-man rush to go up 2-0 in the series. Following the loss, head coach Lane Lambert preferred not to comment on the incident and instead turned his focus forward:
"Right now, we just have to worry about the next game," Lambert said.
Game 3, although still lacking discipline, was better. The Islanders went 4/4 on the penalty kill and finally scored on the power play. With all the "veteran leadership" in the Islanders' room, you'd think they would have been able to keep their foot on the gas. It was supposed to be water in the basement. The Islanders were believed to have worn down their already hindered opponent that is missing a lot of firepower in Max Pacioretty and Andrei Svechnikov. Instead, despite the questionable Game 4 officiating, the Islanders weren't able to match the Hurricanes' penalty-killing efforts which ultimately cost them the game.
Just under five minutes into the first period, Zach Parise was penalized with goaltender interference. Now, to most, it appears as though Jalen Chatfield pushed Parise into Antii Raanta. Regardless, the Islanders went to the penalty kill and the Hurricanes took advantage as Seth Jarvis scored to give Carolina the 1-0 lead. The Parise penalty was the start of the Islanders appearing to be as occupied with the referees as they were with the Hurricanes.
“I felt like I got pushed in,” Parise said. “Maybe he saw something different but I got to the net, and you guys saw it. Nothing much for me to say about it.”
Later, the Islanders were on the power play and Brent Burns took a cross-checking penalty on Mathew Barzal. It appeared as though it should have been a 5-on-3, however, Barzal was assessed a match penalty for "embellishment." For what it's worth, Brendan Burke seemed to agree with the call up in the MSG Networks broadcast booth.
“That’s fair," Burke stated. "You get him [Burns] for bringing the stick into a cross-check position and Barzal for bringing attention to it.”
The Islanders ended Game 4 with 24 penalty minutes. That was 14 more than Carolina. If the Islanders stand any chance of salvaging the series and making some sort of comeback, the veteran leadership in Anders Lee, Bo Horvat, and the entire fourth line just to name a few, need to set the locker room straight and focus on hockey. Naturally, the Islanders wear and tear their opponents down with their style of play. They'll need to get back to the disciplined, grinding style with A LOT more discipline in order to get themselves back in this series. The Hurricanes have proven if you give them an inch, they'll take a mile. As for the Islanders, they're just not skilled enough to reciprocate. It's time they stopped focusing on the referees and the questionable officiating, instead, they need to put their heads down and get back to work, their season depends on it.
“We just gotta try not to focus on the (officials)," Isles Sebastian Aho said. "I feel like we were maybe a little bit too focused on being pissed off at them and everything. We just got to focus on ourselves and play our game.”