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New York Islanders

Islanders Game 1 Loss To Hurricanes As Encouraging As It Is Worrying



AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker

After falling into an early series deficit with a Game 1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes to begin the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the New York Islanders are choosing to look at the positive side of things.

And how could they not, given the 3-1 final at PNC Arena on Saturday was a genuine coin flip?

Sure, the Islanders lost, but they did a nice job of recovering from an early Evgeny Kuznetsov power-play goal when Kyle MacLean evened the score with his first career playoff goal at 8:20 of the opening period. They then dominated play throughout the middle frame and, for the most part, kept pace with a high-powered Hurricanes offense.

If not for Carolina goalie Frederik Andersen standing in the way of 33 of 34 shots, who’s to say the Islanders wouldn’t be looking at a 1-0 series lead right now?

“I think we saw ways that we could be successful,” Kyle Palmieri told reporters in Raleigh after Game 1. “We saw ways that we can limit their chances, and we’ll take a look at it tomorrow. But overall, I think that effort was really good by us, and we absolutely had a chance to win that game.”

As encouraging as Game 1 was for the Islanders, it bears reminding that there are two sides to every coin.

Undoubtedly, Andersen stole a win for Carolina. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Islanders challenged him on seven high-danger scoring chances, with each save he made on them more ridiculous than the last. However, as many opportunities as the Islanders missed, Andersen’s performance cannot be considered an anomaly.

Although he sat out most of the regular season with a blood clotting issue, Andersen has been one of the best goaltenders in hockey since returning on March 7, winning nine of 10 starts while allowing more than two goals just once during that span.

But even before the Islanders can start focusing on solving the opposing goalie, they first must solve their own issues.

The Islanders’ downfall to the Hurricanes during the postseason last year was in large part due to them scoring on just one of their 18 power-play chances across six games. That trend continued on Saturday when the Islanders were once again kept quiet on the man advantage, failing to score on both of their opportunities, including one in the third period with the chance to tie the score.

“I’m encouraged because I thought we played a really solid game,” Islanders head coach Patrick Roy told reporters in Raleigh. “We did a lot of good things out there. It was a hard-fought game, but we had our chances, and I’m frustrated because we had our chances.”

Defensively is where the Islanders looked most promising.

While the Hurricanes had the advantage with 65 shot attempts, the Islanders did well by blocking 21 of them and allowing just 25 to reach Semyon Varlamov, who made 23 saves in another overall solid showing.

“We’ve been playing well defensively for a while,” said Roy. “Obviously, playing well defensively gives you a chance to win every game, and that’s what our guys have been doing. I thought we did a great job of getting the puck out of our zone. That’s a good forechecking team, and we did a good job getting those pucks out.”

Now the question becomes, can the Islanders do it again?

Carolina is a team that maintains constant pressure in the attacking end by relentlessly throwing pucks toward the net, even if it’s not a particularly great shot. That style of play will wear down an opponent over the course of a seven-game series, so having a similar performance to Game 1 will only become more difficult for the Islanders the later the series goes.

Not to mention, Saturday was the first time this year the Islanders have managed to hold Hurricanes offense in check. Despite winning two of their matchups with Carolina during the regular season, the Islanders gave up four goals in all four games of the season series.

So, while the Islanders can certainly be encouraged after Game 1, it’s equally as worrying that they fell short in one of their strongest efforts while the Hurricanes didn’t have their best.

“There were key moments in the game…but we came up short,” said Roy. “All year, we’ve been resilient, and now is the moment to continue to do that.”

Game 2 between the Islanders and Hurricanes at PNC Arena is Monday night at 7:30 p.m. EST.