PREVIEW: New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers
Dylan Callaghan-Croley (@DylanCCSports)
July 31, 2020
What They Did in the Regular Season:
New York Islanders: 35-23-10 (80-points) - At the time of the stoppage, the Islanders were in the midst of a battle for the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference as they tail spinned from the middle of the Metro Division to the bottom with a seven-game losing streak.
Florida Panthers: 35-26-8 (78-points) - The Panthers are benefited by the qualifying around and now have the opportunity to make the playoffs as they enter as the No.10 seed. The Panthers had a rather up-and-down regular season and were 4-6 in their last 10 before the
Offensive Analysis: EDGE - FLORIDA PANTHERS
New York Islanders: 2.78 GF/GP, 17.3% PP
Florida Panthers: 3.30 GF/GP, 21.3% PP
Offensively, the Panthers have the edge over the Islanders by quite a margin. During the regular season, the Panthers averaged over half a goal more than the Islanders and their power play was successful at 4% higher rate. Panthers left winger Jonathan Huberdeau leads all scorers entering this season, totaling 23 goals and 55 assists for 78 points in 69 games this season.
Outside of Huberdeau, the Panthers have strong scoring threats in C Aleksander Barkov, C Mike Hoffman, RW Evgenii Daonov, and C Noel Acciari. All five of them had over 20-goals this season. But their offense goes beyond those five as defenseman Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad both totaled over 40-points this season. With the league’s sixth ranked offense it’s safe to say that the Panthers can score with any of their lines and can score with the best of them.
The Islanders, on the other hand, enter the qualifying round with the league’s 22nd-ranked offense. The Islanders leading scorer entering the series is 22-year old center Mathew Barzal who had 19 goals and 41 assists for 60-points in 68-games this season. Their leading goal scorer was center Brock Nelson with 26 goals while Anders Lee contributed 20-goals for himself. Overall, the Islanders offense struggled to generate quality scoring chances this season especially on the power play where they only converted 17.3% of their opportunities.
Defensive Analysis: EDGE - NEW YORK ISLANDERS
New York Islanders: 2.79 GA/GP, 80.7% PK
Florida Panthers: 3.25 GA/GP, ,78.5% PK
The Islanders have the significant advantage over the Panthers when it comes to the two teams defensively. The Islanders posted the league’s ninth best defense this season, averaging 2.79 goals allowed per game. Their defensive core is a combination of gritty veterans and young rising talent including 20-year Noah Dobson who posted a 52.6% corsi at even strength this season.
At goalie, the Islanders have two quality options in net. The first goalie up will most likely be Semyon Varlamov who played in 45 games this season and made 39 starts. In his 45 games, he collected a 19-14-6 record with a .914 save percentage and a 2.62 goals against average. His backup will be 34-year old Thomas Greiss who played in 31 games this season, going 16-9-4 with a .913 save percentage and 2.74 goals against average.
The Panthers blue line struggled this season even with talent such as Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle, and MacKenzie Weegar. Ekblad and Weegar posted the Panthers highest plus-minus of the season at +12 and +6 respectively, however, Ekblad is returning after being away from practice for undisclosed reasons. He did not play in the Islanders exhibition on Wednesday against Tampa Bay. Additionally, Weegar did not play either against the Lightning and it is unclear if he will be ready for the qualifying round this upcoming weekend.
The Panthers will have the league’s second highest paid goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky in net as of right now. Bobrovsky had a rough first season with the Panthers after signing a lucrative contract last offseason. In 50 games and 48 starts this season, Bobrovsky went 23-19-6 with a .900 save percentage while allowing 3.23 goals per game. If the Panthers go a different direction they will go with 25-year Chris Driedger who went 7-2-1 this season in 12 games, saving 93.8% of opposing shot attempts while allowing 2.05 goals per game.
Special Teams: EDGE - EVEN
When it comes to special teams between the two teams, it is a rather even matchup. The Panthers have the edge on the power play but the Islanders have the much better penalty kill. With that, goalie play often is what decides who wins the special teams battle and you’d have to give that to the Islanders at this point. But from a pure statistical perspective, this one is too close to call.
This series is an interesting one and one that is hard to predict. It’s truly a series of two teams on the opposite ends of the spectrum. The high scoring Florida Panthers who give up almost as many goals as they score and the low-scoring New York Islanders who will suffocate opposing offenses. This series may come down to the play of Sergei Bobrovsky, if Bobrovsky continues the play he’s shown this past regular season and in Florida’s exhibition against Tampa Bay, then this could be a quick series. Either way, I’ll take the strong defensive play of the Islanders to win this series.