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The New York Islanders now face a 3-0 series deficit to the Carolina Hurricanes. This comes after Wednesday nights win. However, despite the series score, the Islanders have been in it for most of the time. The New York Islanders offence needs to come alive for a comeback to happen. Still, time is running out for the team. Sports books like mad-betting.com have the Hurricanes heavily favored in Game 4 and poised to take the series and head to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The 2019 Islanders have found themselves in an unfamiliar place, down and almost out. It has been a feel-good year for the team and fans. After losing star centre John Tavares most people had written them off. However, under Barry Trotz, the team thrived defensively. Robin Lehner had a career year and the new style of defence really helped the Islanders.
In the series preview, quality of shots was outlined as the name of the New York Islanders offence this season. In this series, they really haven’t been outplayed in quality or quantity. Through three games, they have 45.49CF%, 46.58xGF%, and 49HDCF%. Now, over a full season, these numbers would not be very inspiring. However, three-game sample sizes are very small. A game three that Carolina dominated in the stats department has thrown this heavily.
In fact, the Islanders had better quality shot attempts in both games 1 and 2. However, the difference came in the offence. Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney have stopped almost everything at high danger. They have yet to allow a high danger goal against at 5v5. While the Canes, on the other hand, have scored four.
Have the Islanders been playing worse than they did when they swept the Pittsburgh Penguins? Obviously, the series score would say so. But how has their underlying play been?
In that four-game series, they had a 44.25CF%, 50XGF%, and 53HDCF%. They played the Penguins as they played all year long, quality over quantity. It can be a very effective short-term solution for teams who like to play defensively. As well, as long as you are not being caved in with shot metrics, sacrificing some of the quantity for a sound defensive scheme can be very effective as shown.
The New York Islanders offence capitalized on their chances last series and that was a massive reason for their win. They scored on 6 of their 42 high-danger shot attempts. This sort of scoring needs to come alive if the Isles wish to climb back from a 3-0 hole.
So, what are the biggest differences between the series? For one, the underlying numbers and chances. The Isles averaged 10.5 HDCF per game at 5v5 in round one compared to the 9 per game against the Canes. While a 1.5 difference doesn’t seem like too much it can make a huge swing. Per game, an extra HD scoring chance could easily mean an extra goal here or there. Something the Isles could definitely user right about now.
As well, goaltending has made a huge difference. Matt Murray had just a .906 save percentage and a -1.28 GSAA in the playoffs. While the Canes goaltending has stopped 96.6% of the shots this series. Sometimes you run into a hot goalie and there is nothing you can do about it.
Lastly, the defence cores are much different. The Isles feast off of a strong transition game and a very hard forecheck. One of the biggest advantages they had against the Pens was that Pittsburgh’s defence either couldn’t move the puck, looked hurt, or couldn’t handle it all by themselves. The Canes have a much stronger defence with almost everyone in it being able to move the puck.
This is why the New York Islanders offence needs to be the change. The hard forecheck hasn’t been as effective, but it hasn’t been neutralized either. The Islanders have been rather unlucky when it comes to conversion, however, luck isn’t something you can wait for in the playoffs.
The forwards need to continue to get to the dirty areas, along with firing from in close. Making the Canes goalies move around and track quick rebounds with screens in front is a good idea for the Isles. They have done it all year, they will need to dig down and find something extra to keep their playoff hopes alive. That has to start with the offence.