The Islanders and Hurricanes are meeting in the playoffs for the first time as they enter Game 1 of their second-round series on Friday night at Barclays Center.
The Islanders advanced with a four-game sweep of the Penguins while the Hurricanes, rallying twice from two-goal deficits, ousted the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals with a 4-3 double-overtime win in Game 7 on Wednesday night in Washington.
Here’s the breakdown on this series:
Islanders: Coach Barry Trotz is able to roll four lines, typically having his “identity line” of Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck on the ice to start each period. Clutterbuck exited Game 4 against the Penguins and missed two practices but will be able to start the series. Right wing Jordan Eberle had one goal in each of the four first-round games as the top line with Mathew Barzal (five assists) and Anders Lee played like one. Second-line center Brock Nelson had three goals against the Penguins.
Hurricanes: The Hurricanes can also roll four, balanced lines. The top line of Sebastian Aho between Teuvo Teravainen and former Islander Nino Niederreiter gave the Capitals fits with its speed. Second-line center Jordan Staal (three goals, three assists) was dominant at times during the series around the crease and his right wing, Justin Williams, is one of the game’s savviest veterans. Third-line left wing Warren Foegele had four goals and two assists. The health of rookie right wing Andrei Svechnikov (20 goals, 17 assists in the regular season) is in question after he was knocked out in a Game 3 fight with Alex Ovechkin.
Islanders: Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock blossomed into a shutdown pair in the first round against Sidney Crosby’s line and Nick Leddy and rookie Devon Toews are two of the team’s best skaters. Like Pelech and Pulock, Scott Mayfield is a big-bodied blueliner who has rapidly developed this season. Johnny Boychuk, who won a Cup with the Bruins in 2011, was lost for three to four weeks when he blocked a shot with his left leg in Game 4. Thomas Hickey, who has played sporadically since a head injury kept him out for 29 games from Dec. 18-Feb. 23, will pair with Leddy in Boychuk’s absence.
Hurricanes: The Hurricanes generate plenty of offense from their back end as Dougie Hamilton (18 goals, 21 assists in the regular season), Justin Faulk (11, 24) and Jaccob Slavin (eight, 23) are all comfortable getting up in the attack. Slavin, with nine assists, and Hamilton, with three goals and three assists, were two of the Hurricanes’ top three scorers against the Capitals. Former Islander Calvin de Haan has been a solid addition to the defense corps as he’s paired with Trevor van Riemsdyk.
Islanders: Vezina Trophy finalist Robin Lehner compiled a 1.47 goals-against average and a .956 save percentage against the Penguins, stopping 130 of 136 shots and allowing just three goals over the last three games. Thomas Greiss, who shared the Jennings Trophy with Lehner, won three of the four games he started against the Hurricanes during the regular season, making 45 saves in a 2-1 overtime win in the season opener on Oct. 4.
Hurricanes: Petr Mrazek had a 2.54 GAA and a .899 save percentage against the Capitals but was strong when he needed to be both in Games 6 and 7 after the Hurricanes fell behind. He’s an aggressive goalie who prefers challenging the shooters. Curtis McElhinney (20-11-2, 2.58 GAA, .912 save percentage) is the backup.
Islanders: The power play, which ranked 28th during the regular season, had a goal in each of the first two games against the Penguins, though it was 1-for-6 in Game 2 and went 2-for-13 overall. But it was the penalty kill that really was a crucial factor in the first series as the Penguins’ potent power play, which includes Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang, was held to a 1-for-11 performance.
Hurricanes: The Hurricanes ranked 20th in the regular season and were only 3-for-25 on the power play against the Capitals, with Hamilton notching two of the man-advantage goals. Their penalty kill struggled somewhat against the Ovechkin-led Capitals’ power play, which went 6-for-24, though Aho did score a crucial shorthanded goal in Game 7 and the Hurricanes killed off a Capitals’ man advantage in the second overtime.
Islanders: Barry Trotz is coming off a Stanley Cup with the Capitals last season and has engineered the best defensive turnaround in the NHL in 100 years with the Islanders.
Hurricanes: Few teams had as much fun this season as the Hurricanes (see videos of their postgame victory celebrations), but they also quickly adapted the bulldog attitude of first-year coach Rod Brind’Amour, who was the Hurricanes' captain when the franchise won its lone Cup in 2006.
Andrew Gross: Islanders in 6
Laura Albanese: Islanders in 6
Neil Best: Hurricanes in 6
Mark Herrmann: Islanders in 7
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