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The New York Islanders’ season came to an end last night, with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 6 of their first round series.
The Islanders opened the game with a lot of energy and had a good chance only 30 seconds in, with Hudson Fasching being stopped on a good glove save from Frederik Andersen. New York was able to sustain momentum though and then midway through the frame, Cal Clutterbuck came down the wing and ripped a shot over Andersen glove-side, putting New York up early.
The Islanders kept pressing after going ahead with a few more great opportunities, including a chance for Mathew Barzal, who whiffed on the puck with a mostly open net. Overall though, it was a really solid opening frame for New York and one of the more entertaining periods of the series altogether.
The Islanders continued to sustain momentum through a lot of the second period, generating the majority of dangerous chances. Kyle Palmieri, Brock Nelson, Zach Parise and Cal Clutterbuck (among others) all had excellent chances throughout the frame, but just couldn’t convert. Despite New York heading to intermission only up one though, they outshot Carolina 17-11 and it might have been their best single period of the playoffs.
Things really took a turn in the first half of the third period, however, with the Islanders being outshot badly. While trying to limit risks in order to hold a lead is one thing, spending a large amount of the period in your own end isn’t necessarily the way to do it.
Then after pressing, the Hurricanes tied the game midway through the period, with Sebastian Aho catching a puck and dropping to his stick to score in-close. The Islanders went on to be outshot 19-5 in the period and it was as complete turnaround from what we’d seen in the first 40 minutes.
While New York did seem to have some momentum in overtime, only five minutes in, Adam Pelech fanned on a clearing pass and Paul Stastny managed to bank the puck off Ilya Sorokin and in on a brutal goal, ending the Islanders’ season.
Obviously, it’s a tough way for the year to end.
The Islanders looked great through the majority of this game and Carolina was lucky to even still be hanging around through 40 minutes. If New York had capitalized on even one of the many opportunities they had early on, you have to think the game, and maybe the series, ends differently.
But the Islanders sat back in the third period just trying to hold the lead, and it ended up costing them. They generated almost nothing in the way of chances in the third frame and were basically relying on limiting any opportunities for Carolina and Ilya Sorokin being perfect. It didn’t work.
Speaking of Sorokin, the overtime winner is a bad way to cap off what’s been a great year (and series) for him. While he can take blame for that goal, the reality is the team wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near this point without him.
I think last night’s game kind of represented the season overall. We saw how good the team can be at their best, dominating the first 40 minutes. But rarely did the Islanders put together a full 60 minutes, similar to last night, where they disappeared in the third period.
While New York did get back to the playoffs after missing the postseason last year, it's hard to feel really positive heading into the summer. The Islanders had a great opportunity against a team who was playing without half of their top-six forwards for the majority of the series and still couldn’t get it done. Factoring in Carolina's injuries, the Islanders were not outmatched on paper and we saw that when they’re at their best, they could outplay the Hurricanes. But the consistency from period-to-period and game-to-game wasn’t there.
While this team seemed to be clutch in big moments in past years, that wasn’t the case this season. Through the final months of the season and into the playoffs, it seemed like as soon as the team would build some momentum and had a great opportunity, they weren’t able to take advantage.
New York’s top forwards also didn't provide the impact they needed to in the playoffs. Mathew Barzal and Bo Horvat each had two points in six games, while Anders Lee had one. For a team who already can’t score a ton, getting very little offense from the majority of your best players is devastating to your chances of success.
I guess on a positive note, it was great to see the Islanders battle back to get into the playoffs in the first place, which was no easy task. They also did it without their best player for a lot of that run.
But I’m not sure where the Islanders stand going forward. They still have a solid core group to build around, but they could lose pieces in free agency due to limited cap space and don’t have prospects who are ready to make a major impact in the NHL.
I’ll have a season recap article coming out in the next few days.
OTHER ARTICLES FROM APRIL
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Islanders fall short in Game 1, lose 2-1 to Hurricanes
Islanders fall into 0-2 hole after overtime loss to Hurricanes
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Islanders keep season alive with narrow Game 5 win over Hurricanes