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Carolina Hurricanes vs New York Islanders Round One Going as Expected and Unexpected

Here we are after three games into the first-round series between the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders in the 2022-23 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Carolina Hurricanes lead the series two to one. As most expected a Hurricanes vs Islanders defensive showdown, some expectations have been met while some unexpected storylines have also developed.

The Hurricanes vs Islanders Up to Now in Round One

Game one of this series was a low-scoring affair as many expected. Carolina took a two to one victory. The Hurricanes scored two power play goals and shut the door on the penalty kill while the Islanders Ryan Pulock snuck in a fluky goal past Antti Raanta.

Game two was a different affair. The Hurricanes won in overtime four to three on a Jesper Fast snipe past Ilya Sorokin. This game had many oddities including Sebastian Aho scoring on Sorokin – as in the Islanders Aho scoring an own goal and Kyle Palmieri sneaking in a goal that Raanta again would have liked to have back. Unlike game one, Carolina never had much luck on the power play as their only power play goal was a result of the Islanders Aho’s own goal. The Islanders had 12 penalty minutes including two double minors while the Hurricanes only had two penalty minutes. To add to the drama, many felt there was a missed high-sticking call on the Hurricanes in overtime right before the winning goal and Teuvo Teravainen broke his wrist as a result of taking a slash on the wrist from Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

For 55 minutes, game three was exactly what most thought this series would look like. A tight one to one game with no power play success for either team. But then Palmieri would change that with about four minutes left on a beautiful tip in the waning seconds of a power play. After that, the gates fell down for Carolina as the Islanders broke an NHL record to pour on three more goals and end the game five to one in front of an electrifying crowd at UBS Arena.

The Defensive Showdown and Special Teams

The story going into this game was could the Hurricanes beat Sorokin and could the Islanders break the Hurricanes tight possession and suffocating game. This series has seen the answer to both questions be yes and no. Each game has looked fairly different. In game one, the Hurricanes were able to beat Sorokin just enough to grind out a tight two to one victory. As expected, of a game that was, the Hurricanes two goals unexpectedly came on the power play. Unexpected considering how bad the Hurricanes power play has been and how good the Islanders penalty kill has been.

Game two was not the low scoring affair most expected. However, all of the Hurricanes goals were even strength except an Islanders own-goal (by Sebastian Aho ironically) on a Hurricanes power play. And then game three was largely as expected…..until the final five minutes. The Islanders struggling power play came through at the very end and broke a perfect penalty kill record for the Hurricanes in the series. While that was enough to win the game, the Islanders exploded offensively to end the game with five goals.

This series has both been as expected and not when it comes to the defensive showdown we expected. Overall, special teams have been interesting. The Hurricanes are at 21.4% on the power play while the Islanders are at 11.1%. The regular season numbers respectively are 19.8% and 15.8%. So, the Hurricanes power play has slightly higher success than the regular season numbers while the Islanders power play has slightly less success. It’s a small sample size but overall, it’s not too far from expected. Any changes to this could lead to a series winner.

One other piece that is interesting is that the Hurricanes have not really driven the play like they typically do. Even though the Hurricanes are leading in shots, the Islanders have an xG% of 55.92% while the Hurricanes are at 44.08%. Meanwhile, the goal differential for the Hurricanes is in line with their post-Svechnikov stats at negative two. The Hurricanes top two lines have really struggled to produce much on the score sheet too. With the exception of the end of game three, this has overall been a tight series as expected but a few underlying trends are going against the expected flow.

Hurricanes Injuries vs Islanders Returns

One big story in this series has been injuries to key players and its possible impact on the series. Speaking of injuries, even referee TJ Luxmore left game three with an injury briefly to be replaced by Wes McCauley until he could return. For Carolina, Max Pacioretty missed most of the season after being brought in to be the goal scorer they need. Ondrej Kase was signed in the offseason too but only played in one game before leaving with a concussion. Then losing Andrei Svechnikov shortly after the trade deadline was a dagger that has seemed to really shake the team.

Then with all of that compounded, the Hurricanes lost another top six winger in Teravainen in game two. He will at a minimum miss this series. If the Hurricanes can get past the Islanders, he may return later but that is to be determined. While Teraveinen has had an overall down year, the Hurricanes will surely miss his playmaking ability in the top six. This was seen in game three. Especially considering the lack of top six forwards plaguing the team already.

Meanwhile, the Islanders have had sort of a reverse in injury luck. Mathew Barzal made his return in game one after missing a large part of the last of the regular season. It is no secret how good of a playmaker Barzal is and what he brings to the Islanders. He may have started a little slow in game one (as expected) but started to pick it up at the end of that game and scored a goal in game two. While he may not individually have exploded on the stat sheet, his return rounds out two solid first and second lines for the Islanders that make the Hurricanes matchups a little more complicated. In addition, defenceman Alexander Romanov made his return from injury in game three. He logged 15 minutes of ice time in his return and provides additional depth to the Islanders defensive core.

While the Hurricanes have been dealing with losing key players, the Islanders have been working to get their returning players reacclimated and up to playoff hockey speed. But that’s playoff hockey. Most teams have to deal with injuries and figure out ways to grind through it. Keep an eye on how the Hurricanes adjust vs the Islanders utilizing their returning players.

Hurricanes Road Woes

Following game three, one trend remains in place the Hurricanes would like to break. With their loss on Long Island, the Hurricanes failed to win a road playoff game in their last eight games. Their last overtime road win coming against the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2021 and their last regulation playoff win coming against the Islanders in 2019.

While the struggles at time could be the result of not having last change and tougher line matchups, this doesn’t seem clearly like the case in game three. The most effective Islanders lines were their second and fourth lines. It is however possible that the first line is taking the tougher matchups and allowing the others to succeed. Is it then just the feel of playing away and the crowd? Not being in your own locker room? There doesn’t seem to be a clear rhyme or reason to it for the Hurricanes but it’s a trend they will look to change in game four.

Foreseen….Unforeseen Controversy

And what’s playoff hockey without some drama? After a fairly vanilla game one, game two brought on an increasing physicality, penalty disparities, and some controversy. At the end of the second period in game two, Islanders forward Matt Martin was called for a two-minute minor penalty for cross checking Jordan Staal. Pretty normal call. However, it was a little away from the play and more interestingly, as Staal hit the ice Martin proceeded to sit on him for the final seconds of the period. Staal left the ice in pain but returned and didn’t seem to sustain any major injury.

As the game went on, the Islanders ended with 12 penalty minutes while the Hurricanes only had two. The Hurricanes penalty came during a power play, so the Islanders ended the game with no power plays. Then, in overtime, Islanders Scott Mayfield appeared to take a high stick from Jordan Martinook that went uncalled. Shortly after, the Hurricanes scored to win. Was it the right non-call? It depends on who you ask but at this point sometimes it seems almost impossible to really tell. At the end of the day, the game ended, and the series moved to Long Island.

In game three, near the end of the game Pageau put a clean hit on Martin Necas. That hit sent him into the Islanders bench. Something caused Necas to throw a punch at Brock Nelson who was sitting on the bench at the time. It looked like Nelson may have stomped on Necas stick and broke it. Regardless, that is a play Necas would probably want to abstain from to avoid potential further discipline. Especially considering how thin the Hurricanes forward lines are at this point.

In the playoffs tensions are high, intensity is through the roof, and everyone is looking to win at all costs. NHL refs have a very difficult job given the speed the game is played. The NHL has increasingly used video review to help right wrongs, but nothing is perfect. Goaltender interference and player discipline are two areas that seem to be major toss ups when it comes to consistency. But with that said, the game goes on and good teams push through. At this point, is this not somewhat expected in a playoff series? It will be interesting to see how slowly increasing drama may affect the rest of this series.

Main Photo: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports


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