The New York Islanders are headed to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season. This Islanders playoff run will most likely be different than the past two, but they’ll meet some familiar foes. The Islanders swept the Pittsburgh Penguins back in the 2019 first round. Sidney Crosby and the Penguins will look for revenge from their 2019 playoff loss. After having a tough end to the season, it’ll be 6 days between game 1 of the series and their last game. This little break the Islanders have will seemingly dictate their fate. The Islanders have received a mixed bag of results after extensive periods of time between games. The Islanders will need a positive result, the way they played towards the end of the season was unacceptable.
Will Anders Lee’s Void be Filled?
Ever since March 11th, the Islanders have been playing with a massive void. Unfortunately, they’ll still have that void in these playoffs. Anders Lee isn’t just a good player, he’s the captain and leader of this team. His presence has been missed greatly and will probably continue to be missed. Making the deadline trade for Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac was supposed to fill Lee’s void. But so far, that void still has yet to be filled. Importantly, the Islanders need a good playoff out of Palmieri. He needs the ability to show that it was worth choosing him and Zajac over Taylor Hall. For Palmieri, 2 goals and 2 assists in 17 games just aren’t going to cut it.
The Differences Between This Team Compared to Last Year’s
In comparing this Islanders team to last year’s, there are many similarities and some differences. They’ll be without the services of Devon Toews, Derick Brassard, Anders Lee, and Thomas Greiss. Respectfully, the voids of Toews, Brassard, and Greiss have been filled nicely. The young guns took over this season, as Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, and Ilya Sorokin have been massive contributors. There’s a low probability of Sorokin seeing the ice in the playoffs, but Dobson and Wahlstrom will be important to any success. Dobson actually played in 1 playoff game last season, which was actually the game the Islanders got eliminated in. Even though his services weren’t used in the 2020 playoffs, the Islanders are also without Johnny Boychuk. Boychuk is technically on the Islanders roster, but he’s realistically retired.
Will Leddy and Mayfield’s Defense Hold the Islanders Back?
In this day and age of hockey, defensemen aren’t looked upon defensively as much as they should. The Islanders are known to be one of the best defensive teams in hockey. But, they do have some defensive weaknesses. Scott Mayfield and Nick Leddy were a defensive blunder in the regular season. Leddy played as a major contributor offensively, but his defense has been unacceptable. The same goes for Mayfield, he just isn’t as much of a force offensively. Their defense needs to step up big time. It seemed, especially near the end of the season, that their pairing gave up a majority of the Islanders goals against. The question of whether or not to keep them together has been brought up. But, it seems that Barry Trotz is keeping that pairing together.
Pelech, Pulock, and Greene Have Massive Importance
Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, and Andy Greene have been great defensively. Pulock needs to score a bit more but otherwise has been great. Unlike Pelech and Greene, Pulock has a greater ability to score. He just didn’t really score much in the 56 games a regular season, with only 2 goals. In the Playoffs, defense is even more important. As long as they stay healthy, Pulock, Greene, and Pelech will probably be defensive forces. Their defense has been massively important and they need to maintain their good play on that side of the game.
Can the Islanders Improve Their Power-play?
The Islanders power play performed interestingly. They were times in the season where the power play played great, other times the power play was awful. Power play scoring has been an issue with the Islanders in recent years. Adding Oliver Wahlstrom and Kyle Palmieri can definitely improve this issue, but missing Anders Lee will hurt. Mathew Barzal has the ability to be great on the power play, the issue isn’t that they don’t have the talent. The Islanders main problem on the power play has been maintaining puck control. They have problems re-entering the zone after a lost face-off. If they win the first face-off they can be a good power play, but even then they don’t get the puck at the net enough. The power play isn’t essential for success, but scoring on the power play would give the team an added boost.
Health is Key
In all sports, any team needs to stay healthy for success. Injuries can’t be controlled. The Islanders need their guys to play, as long as they’re able to. Semyon Varlamov exited the final regular-season game in the second intermission. He practiced today for the first time since his exit. He will play when the playoffs begin, but there are definitely concerns. Varlamov had a spectacular regular season, it remains to be seen if this injury concern will affect his play. In general, it’d be beneficial if the majority of the team can stay in the lineup. The Islanders certainly have the depth if an injury were to occur, but they’d like to have their best lineup out there in the playoffs.
The Islanders Have a Great Group
This season the Islanders have received contributions from several sources. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle, and Anthony Beauvillier have been key to this team’s road to the playoffs. Even though they’ve had their ups and downs, this is a great team. Yes, they have good coaching that plays a factor in this team. That being said, the Islanders are solid throughout the lineup. The Islanders have a great-up all around starting with their fourth line of Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin, and Casey Cizikas. There is no doubt, this team is very well built.
The Islanders have what it takes to go on a run. Obviously, there are some needed adjustments to be made. The Playoffs are a different animal. But, there is no doubt that the Islanders have a great group. The addition of more fans to just under 50% capacity at Nassau Coliseum will be given the team a boost. This is the final ride at Nassau Coliseum. Can the Islanders make this ride special?