After months of anticipation, the New York Islanders will face the Florida Panthers in the first game of the qualifying round tomorrow. I’ve already talked about this matchup from just every angle possible, but I wanted to do a quick final preview of the series ahead of Game 1.
The Islanders are coming off a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers in their exhibition game. A chunk of the team’s forward group still left something to be desired but defensively, the Islanders looked great and both Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss played well.
Florida’s exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, on the other hand, didn’t go so well. They lost 5-0 and Sergei Bobrovsky, who will need to be sharp if the Panthers hope to advance, did not look good whatsoever. That’s not just based on the goals he let in, but he looked off altogether. He was often out of position, sliding too far in movement and at times, seemingly didn’t know where he was in his net.
Here are the projected lineups, according to NHL.com’s Brian Compton:
Lee - Barzal - Eberle
Beauvillier - Nelson - Bailey
Johnston - Pageau - Brassard
Martin - Cizikas - Clutterbuck
Pelech - Pulock
Toews - Mayfield
Leddy - Boychuk
If this is the lineup, it won’t be much of a surprise, but it does include some interesting talking points. Varlamov would be the starter, which seems like a pretty sure bet at this point, Ross Johnston would play on the third line and Johnny Boychuk would play instead of Andy Greene. I’m happy with Varlamov starting but still would prefer to not see Johnston in the top-nine. I had previously preferred Boychuk starting over Greene, however, after seeing them play in the exhibition game, I’m hoping we see Greene instead.
Puck drop is at 4 p.m.
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Here's today's poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):