The second round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs is here. In the Metro, many thought to see two familiar faces square off. However, two other teams had different plans. The Pittsburgh Penguins were swept by the New York Islanders in round one and the Carolina Hurricanes knocked off the defending champions, the Washington Capitals, in Game Seven double overtime. That sets up the unexpected but exciting round two matchup: the Carolina Hurricanes vs New York Islanders.
Carolina Hurricanes vs New York Islanders
Quantity vs Quality
In the Carolina Hurricanes vs New York Islanders series, we will see a matchup of quantity vs quality shooting. On one hand, there is the “Corsi Kings” in the Hurricanes. Their underlying numbers have been great for a few years now. However, a few things have made it harder to find success. Shooting talent is one of those things. The Canes have never been a team loaded with shooting talent. Their fix to that has simply been high-quantity shooting.
This is a strategy that has worked for the Canes this season. When watching, you can see that they are not afraid to fire shots from well outside the slot or from the bluelines if needed. It’s a shoot-from-wherever mentality at times and it is part of what got them into the playoffs. It results in lots of high danger chances as well, mixed with some not so dangerous chances. What it leads to is domination when it comes to underlying numbers. The Hurricanes ranked second during the regular season in CF% and first in quality-shots-for, according to Corsica Hockey.
On the other side, the Islanders and new head coach Barry Trotz took on a defensive style mentality. Meaning in the offensive zone they valued high-quality shots. They took the fourth least amount of shot attempts this season, and by far the least of playoff teams. However, they took the seventh most high danger shot attempts in the league and third in quality-shots-for. It will be interesting to see if the Islanders counter attack team can play well against a quick Carolina defencive core.
Rest As a Weapon?
One of the biggest talking points in the Carolina Hurricanes vs New York Islanders series will be is resting a weapon? If so, how much rest? Game One is Friday night in New York. The Canes played in their series-clinching double OT game on Wednesday. However, the Islanders haven’t played since Tuesday, April 16th. This was 10 days ago.
What will be interesting is seeing if the rest is a positive or negative factor. In the playoffs, you always want as much time as possible to heal your players. Almost everyone battles through some kind of an injury or another. However, will sitting too long make a team rusty off the hop?
For the Canes, they will be hoping even the extra day will get star rookie Andrei Svechnikov enough rest to be healthy to play again. He hasn’t played since game 3 when he was knocked out by Alex Ovechkin in a fight. The Canes have had almost no time to rest and are likely banged up, while the Islanders have had tons of time to rest and may be rusty. Whether Carolina’s lack of rest will keep them hot, or New York’s prolonged days off will make them well-rested will be interesting to see.
One of the biggest things this series will feature is two teams who found much-needed goaltending from unexpected places. Islanders starter Robin Lehner has rightfully been nominated for the Vezina trophy this year. Lehner had never truly found his game in Buffalo or Ottawa. A large part of that was because of the mental battles he has had. He has been very open and a great advocate for talking about these problems and why or how you can get needed help. Yet, he’s mounted a great comeback with the Islanders.
His comeback story has been great to see as he has been absolutely dynamite this year. He ranked 3rd in the league in GAR from Evolving Hockey. His playoffs continued this trend, picking up a .956 save percentage in four games. He also ranked 3rd in GSAA from Corsica for the first round.
On the other hand, the Canes have Petr Mrazek. Mrzaek only started 40 games this year but clearly had the higher upside when it came to stealing a series. He has never found his true 1A game for a starter, however, has proved to be a very effective tandem goalie. Mrzaek only posted a .899 in round one against the high flying Caps offence. However, he was a -0.1 in GSAA from Corsica, which is very average.
The Canes dominating and high quality shot metrics from above means that average is usually all they need from their goaltending. If Mrzaek can bump that save percentage up a bit and make a big stop here or there, the Canes team is good enough to take control of their upcoming series.
Overall, these are two very interesting teams. No doubt this should be a good series that can go either way. Statistically, this looks like a landslide. The Canes control lots of the chances while the Islanders choose a more defensive style of play. However, that defensive style has shown very effective many times before in the playoffs. This really wouldn’t be a shock to see either team win. However, Lehner has already shown he is ready to steal a series and he may just do it again.
Islanders in 6.