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The New York Islanders need a win tonight to keep their season alive.
Following a big victory at home on Friday to get back into the series, the Islanders came out with an uninspired performance in their Game 4 loss on Sunday, to go down 3-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes.
With their season on the line, here are three keys for the Islanders heading into the game.
A STRONG START
Throughout the series, the Islanders have scored the first goal in only one of their four games. Meanwhile, they’ve allowed a goal within the first six minutes in three of the four games.
They have yet to score in the first period all series.
New York is a team whose offense is never going to be an asset, and they’ll have a much better shot at playing with the lead rather than from behind. If they can actually go up early, they can start to avoid risks and lock things down defensively to prevent quality chances. Carolina’s offense has been weakened with injuries and we know they can have trouble finishing, so actually getting off to a strong start would go a long way for New York.
CONTRIBUTIONS FROM FORWARD GROUP
Through four games, only three forwards on the team (Kyle Palmieri, Brock Nelson and Casey Cizikas) have two or more points.
So essentially, nine of the team’s 12 forwards have been held to a single point or less. New York’s entire top line has combined for three points, with Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee and Bo Horvat each managing one goal this series. Meanwhile, Jean-Gabriel Pageau has been held to a single assist, Pierre Engvall doesn’t have a point despite playing in the top-six, and neither do Zach Parise, Hudson Fasching or Cal Clutterbuck.
Creating more offense is easier said than done, and Antti Raanta has been very good throughout the series. But too many forwards aren’t producing, and the Islanders desperately need results.
To start, the Islanders need to stay out of the box – they’ve given up more power play opportunities than any other team in the postseason.
But they’re also getting beaten when it comes to the special teams battle. Carolina has gone 5-for-19 on the man advantage, and it’s not like they’re a particularly strong unit, considering the Hurricanes’ power play ranked 20th in the league this year. Meanwhile, the Islanders are operating at 8 just per cent on the power play.
The Islanders have actually outscored Carolina 8-6 at even 5-on-5 throughout the series, and staying out of the box, along with evening out the special teams battle, is an absolute key in Game 5.
The team has shown inconsistent efforts at times, but if there was a game to show up for, I guess now’s the time. The teams really aren’t mismatched, but Carolina notably has been very good at home, winning 9 of their last 10 playoff games in Raleigh, dating back to last year.
A win tonight though and the Islanders return home with a three-day break before Game 6, then anything is possible in Game 7. Based on the injuries to Carolina’s forward group, the Islanders have nobody to blame but themselves if they go out in five games. Officiating has been poor at times, but that’s not an Islanders-specific issue. They’re a good enough team on paper to take down Carolina’s current lineup, but have dug themselves into a hole. We’ll see if they’re able to climb out.
Puck drop for Game 5 is set for 7 p.m.
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