If there’s one team that was happy to see the regular season end when it did it was the New York Islanders. Losers of seven straight games before the shutdown, the Isles built a big enough cushion thanks to a hot start to enter the reimagined playoffs as the No. 7 seed. The Florida Panthers, meanwhile, get a second chance. The club went all in before the start of the campaign signing netminder Sergei Bobrovsky to a lucrative deal and they were a few points out of a wild card spot prior to the shutdown. Can the Cats take advantage of their nine lives to advance to the next round? Oddsmakers don’t think so installing the New Yorkers as a favorite in the five-game series that opens Saturday.
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New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers Series Schedule
Game 1: Panthers vs. Islanders, Saturday, August 1, 2020, 4 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 2: Panthers vs. Islanders, Tuesday, August 4, 2020, 12 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 3: Islanders vs. Panthers, Wednesday, August 5, 2020, 12 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 4: Islanders vs. Panthers, Friday, August 7, 2020 (If Necessary)
Game 5: Panthers vs. Islanders, Sunday, August 9, 2020 (If Necessary)
Series Price at BookMaker.eu
Florida Panthers +105
New York Islanders -125
Contrasting styles indeed makes us wonder which team has the advantage in this series. They actually had the same number of wins during the regular season at 35 with the Islanders earning a few more points from extra time setbacks. The difference comes in the approach on the ice. Florida averaged 3.30 goals in 69 regular season games to place sixth in the NHL. New York held opponents to an average of 2.78 goals per game.
The question for the Islanders is where does the offense come from? Under coach Barry Trotz, who won a Stanley Cup with the Capitals a few seasons ago, they are a defense-first squad with solid goaltending in the tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss. You can’t win games without scoring, though.
Brock Nelson was the only player to top the 20-goal mark and no one was on a point-per-game pace. That’s just not their style, though, and as long as the wins follow producing a ton of goals isn’t the game plan. We saw the St. Louis Blues win a Cup last year with a heavy game and the Isles do the same with guys like Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin wearing foes down.
There are capable players on the offensive side. Besides Nelson, who tallied 54 points, Matthew Barzal will play a key role. He tallied a team-high 60 points during the regular season. Josh Bailey, Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle are the only other players to score at least 40 points. Those numbers could have been higher if the power play was better. Their 29 goals with the man advantage were the second-fewest and their 17.3 percent success rate placed them 24th.
Hitting the back of the net wasn’t a problem for the Panthers with five players reaching the 20-goal plateau to spark the sixth-best offense. They weren’t as successful against New York during the regular season, which poses a huge problem. They scored just four times losing all three regular season meetings.
There is talent in the top-six with Jonathan Huberdeau notching 55 assists and 78 points in 69 regular season games. Aleksander Barkov totaled 62 points and Mike Hoffman scored a team-high 29 goals with 59 points. They will need to be more productive against the Isles than they were during the regular season.
The Panthers swapped offense for defense during the season. They weren’t horrible but they weren’t great either. Only three teams surrendered more goals and none of them are competing in the playoffs. The problem was exacerbated by poor play from Bobrovsky.
Player to Watch
Success or lack thereof in the postseason always seems to hinge on the play of goalies. That’s especially true for the Panthers, who can make a lot of noise if Bobrovsky performs like he did last postseason. The results were mixed in his first year with Florida. He posted a 3.23 GAA and .900 save percentage. He was given a lot of money after a strong playoff with Columbus last season with a .925 save percentage across 10 games. A hot Bob can certainly steal a series.
Islanders vs. Panthers Free Picks
This has the makings of an entertaining series with teams on different ends of the spectrum. The Islanders lost seven straight before the shutdown, but they also had a 17-game point streak that put them in the upper echelon of the league. Playoff games tend to be lower scoring and that style benefits the Islanders. There is enough talent offensively to get them past this round and sweeping the season series is a boost.
Islanders vs. Panthers Series Pick: Islanders in 5 Games
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