A best-of-five series affords very little time for sluggish play.
Which is why Florida Panthers president and general manager Dale Tallon knows his team must be at its sharpest against the Islanders. The teams are pitted in a qualifying series into the NHL’s 16-team playoffs — not likely to begin until August — under the league’s return-to-play model. The season was paused on March 12 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There will be no secrets,” Tallon said Thursday on a Zoom teleconference with the media. “The Islanders are very well-coached, very well-prepared. They play their best every shift. They’re disciplined so we can’t get frustrated with them. We just have to be patient, compete and not have any bad sequences.”
The Islanders are seeded seventh in the Eastern Conference while the Panthers are seeded 10th. The games will be played at a neutral, hub city.
“Some sacrifice has to be made for this,” Tallon said of neither team playing home games in front of their fans. “The first priority is to stay safe, make sure nobody gets infected with this dreadful disease. We can’t force people into the building and that’s sad.”
The series would feature the NHL’s two winningest active coaches. The Islanders’ Barry Trotz has 845 regular-season wins and one Stanley Cup with the Capitals in 2018. That leaves him second behind the Panthers’ Joel Quenneville, who has 925 regular-season wins and three Cups with the Blackhawks between 2010-15.
They have met once in the playoffs, in 2010 when the Blackhawks eliminated Trotz’s Nashville Predators in six games in the first round.
This season, Islanders swept a tight, it-could-have-gone-either-way, three-game series. They won 3-2 in a shootout at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 12 to start a team-record 15-0-2 streak, 2-1 at Barclays Center on Nov. 9 and 3-1 at Florida on Dec. 12 as defenseman Adam Pelech scored an empty-netter with 3.0 seconds remaining.
“We’re comparable,” said Tallon, adding his team will be fully healthy just like the Islanders, who will have Pelech (Achilles tendon), Casey Cizikas (leg laceration) and defenseman Johnny Boychuk (eye laceration) back.
NHL awards: The NHL on Thursday announced the Boston Bruins as the Presidents’ Trophy winner with a league-best 100 points. The Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl (43 goals, 67 assists) won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s scoring leader with 110 points. The Bruins’ David Pastrnak and the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin shared the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy with a league-high 48 goals. Ovechkin has won the award nine times. Bruins goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, a former Islander, shared the William M. Jennings Trophy as the Bruins allowed a league-low 174 goals.