The Isles enter this one as slight favorites with the over/under set at 5.5
Game One couldn’t have gone any better for the Islanders. It’s easy to say that after a win, but you could just see the Isles were dictating the pace of game one. The Islanders were able to score in the first and sit back and play defensive hockey for almost the entire game. New York will need to continue to play that hard-nosed, Barry Trotz-style of Hockey if they want to win game two.
Looking ahead to the second game of this matchup, I decided I would ask for some outside help. I had a chance to speak with Jeff Capellini, an avid Islanders fan and a writer for CBSNewYork.com. He was able to answer some questions for me about game two. Here is the transcript of that conversation:
MG: Was Game 1 a fluke (like did the Isles just have a few more lucky bounces go their way), or do you think the Islanders showed their full potential on Saturday?
JC: “I think what you saw in Game 1 was textbook Islanders under Barry Trotz, given the personnel they have. It has long been known that they need another scorer upfront, a big-time scorer. But they have made and continue to make the best of what they have. The Isles play a grind-it-out style that is more about timely goals than constant red lights. They live and die on their defensive structure. It must be sound and their goaltending must be better than just good. I think they checked all the boxes of their blueprint in Game One.”
MG: As a Columbus Blue Jackets fan, I️ know that Sergei Bobrovsky has had his struggles in the playoffs. With that in mind, which goalie do you think will have a better game on Tuesday?
JC: “Bobrovsky was stellar, in my opinion. If you are a Florida fan you have to be encouraged by what you saw from him, given how much he struggled for much of the regular season after getting that massive contract. For whatever reason, maybe the pressure of the big contract he got or his new surroundings forced a huge adjustment period for him. But what we all saw in Game One was indicative of who this guy has been for a long time… Varlamov looked really good in the exhibition game against the Rangers prior to the start of the qualifying round. He’s a quality goaltender. Perhaps some of his weaknesses were masked by the Islanders’ defensive prowess during the regular season, but he’s a guy that can steal you games when he’s on, as he was in Game 1. It’s just a matter of consistency with him. I also think by not making him the true No. 1, Trotz did Varlamov a favor. Thomas Greiss is totally capable of being a No. 1 and could play in this series given that Games two and three are back-to-back. When you have two guys who are of equal ability, albeit with different strengths, and you play both and show confidence in both, there’s a smaller margin for error for either. And let’s not forget, the Isles’ goalie of the future, Ilya Sorokin, is finally signed. Varlamov has to be good or he could find himself being a pretty well-paid backup as early as next season. Greiss will be a free agent after this season, but who knows what Lamoriello will do? He could re-sign Greiss short term and try to trade Varlamov, but he’ll only have that option if Varly is good during the playoffs.”
MG: I guess the last question I have is who do you like in game two?
JC: “I would expect Florida to come out completely jacked in Game 2. You can’t fall behind 0-2 in a best-of-5 series. Granted, the lack of home-ice advantage for teams in this unique playoff format might neutralize the age-old belief that “home ice matters,” but you also have to consider the opponent. The Isles are at their best when they play from ahead, whether it be on the scoreboard or in series games. I think it’s imperative the Panthers go up by a goal or two at some point, because if the Isles go up by a goal or two, I just don’t see them losing this game. They adjust on the fly as well as any team in the league, and they have no problem giving off the appearance of being dominated when really they are shelling up largely by design. The Panthers could have the puck forever, but if they are limited to shots from the perimeter, the Isles will have no qualms about simply lofting the puck out of the zone and resetting, or icing the puck and relying on guys like Pageau and Cizikas to win defensive zone draws and repeat the dump-out/reset process. Also, the Isles may be offensively challenged overall, but they are very good in transition. If Florida gets desperate and starts giving up odd-man rushes, the Isles have enough skill to make them pay. All the more reason why Bobrovsky must be as good, if not better, in Game 2.”
Jeff brings up a lot of good points. You can see why I went to him for some advice. I think the Panthers will have a good bounce-back game and tie up the series tomorrow. I am still a little bit worried about how the Isles’ offense will be able to score on a strong goalie like Sergei Bobrovsky. He wasn’t perfect last game, but he was still pretty damn good. Panthers win it without hitting the over.
Panthers 3 – Islanders 1