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Panthers vs Islanders First Round Review

The New York Islanders have advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In six games, the Islanders emerged versus the Florida Panthers in a hard-fought battle that was too close to call on many levels.

Panthers vs Islanders First Round Review

While Panthers fans may want to hang the series loss on officiating, that’s a pretty tough argument to prove over a six-game series. Yes, the coach’s challenge in game three cost the Panthers a goal, but they operated within the framework of existing rules, and until the rule itself is amended to better manage sustained offensive zone possessions initiated by an offside which lead to goals, no blame can fall on the officiating here. And rather than complaining about the inequity in terms of penalties called during crucial times, the sad truth is Florida just didn’t do enough while they had a man advantage for that to even matter. Truthfully, their power play was anemic.

In my series preview, I predicted that Florida, with its apparently superior goaltending, its veteran presence and overall scoring depth, would emerge in six, after a hard-fought and very close series. Ultimately, Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo lost a very close and highly entertaining goaltending duel to the Islander’s backup keeper Thomas Greiss, who was remarkable, posting a series goals-against average of 2.16 versus Luongo’s impressive 2.50 GAA. For a career backup to rise to the occasion under the pressure of post-season play against a talented Panthers team is testament to Greiss’ ability to remain confident and focused despite the odds. Full marks for his performance.

Florida’s veterans, namely Jaromir Jagr and Brian Campbell were surprisingly quiet throughout the series. Jagr contributed no goals and just two assists while Campbell notched a single power play assist across the six-game series. Interestingly, it was Reilly Smith, acquired from the Boston Bruins in the off-season who was the offensive juggernaut for Florida, with four goals and four assists.

Florida’s big guns were never quite able to solve the Isles, who blocked 110 shots throughout the series, won the war in the dot in four of six games, threw fifty more hits than the Panthers (258-208), and won the special teams battle by scoring five times in 21 attempts versus just two power play goals in 17 tries by the Panthers.

With three games being decided by overtime, two of which went to double overtime, this was a last-man-standing affair in which the Isles edged out the opposition by the slimmest of margins, led by captain John Tavares and his nine points (5 goals, 4 assists). Tavares put the team on his back in the final game, virtually willing his squad to victory by scoring both goals in the deciding game Sunday night, the final coming in double overtime.

Predictably, The Isles played a tough, physical brand of puck with several players piling up hits including Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin, Steve Bernier, and Johnny Boychuk. They also received decent offensive support from the back end with a collective two goals and nine assists, however, this was hardly an advantage, as Florida’s defenders contributed two goals and eight assists. Again, these two opponents were so evenly matched in every area other than goaltending and perhaps veteran depth, that it could have gone either way. The Isles will square off against the Tampa Bay Lightning in round two on Wednesday in Tampa at 7 PM.


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