Anders Lee #27 of the Islanders is mobbed by his teammates...

Anders Lee #27 of the Islanders is mobbed by his teammates after his third period empty net goal against the New York Rangers at UBS Arena on Tuesday, Apr. 9, 2024 in Elmont, New York. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Keep grinding.

The Islanders worked their way into the playoffs with a style of hockey that relies less on beauty, more on tenacity.

And that’s the only way the Islanders will be successful in their first-round playoff rematch with the Hurricanes, who will be heavily favored. Get bodies to the Hurricanes’ crease. Get bodies in on the forecheck. Get bodies in front of their own crease to limit rebounds.

“They played some very good hockey down the stretch,” coach Patrick Roy said. “They were resilient. They worked together. I think we learned how to win.”

The Islanders conclude their regular season on Wednesday night against the Penguins at UBS Arena locked into third place in the Metropolitan Division after clinching their fifth playoff berth in six seasons with a 4-1 win over the Devils on Monday night at Prudential Center.

The Hurricanes, who were on a 16-3-1 run entering their season finale in Columbus on Tuesday night, were locked into second place when the Rangers beat the Senators, 4-0, on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Hurricanes eliminated the Islanders in a hard-fought six games last season, with four of the six being decided by one goal and the Islanders losing twice in overtime. The teams split their four-game regular-season series, with each team winning once in overtime. All but the Hurricanes’ 4-1 win at UBS Arena on March 19 was a one-goal game.

That was the one game the Islanders played against the Hurricanes after goalie Frederik Andersen returned on March 7 from a blood-clotting issue that had kept him out since Nov. 2. The Hurricanes gelled after getting their No. 1 netminder back.

They throw a ton of shots on net and, often, simply overwhelm opponents.

The Hurricanes are third in the NHL with 33.2 shots on net per game. The Islanders’ success will come in keeping those shots to the outside and not giving up rebounds.

“When we’ve had success in the past it’s because we’re playing our style of hockey,” Anders Lee said. “It’s not flashy. It’s simple. It’s all four lines. It’s everyone on the back end. Good goaltending. Good defensive zone structure. The whole deal.”

The Islanders played far short of “the whole deal” for most of the season, surviving an 0-5-1 skid in mid-March and still sitting five points out of a playoff spot on March 31.

“Whether it took 75 games or whatever it was, it was a process this year, no doubt,” Lee said. “We’ve gotten ourselves in a good spot where we’re starting to replicate our identity a little bit more.

“The whole goal is to be playing your best hockey at the right time. We’re putting things together to continue to build off of. We’ve had stretches throughout the season where we’ve been good but over the longer span it wasn’t as consistent as it needed to be. Now you’re seeing that night in and night out.”

The Islanders know they need to keep grinding against the Hurricanes. It’s the only way.

More Islanders


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months