When Earth finds its axis and starts spinning again, the Islanders (7) will face the Florida Panthers (10) in the play-in round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Although by bracketology logic they’re fairly evenly matched, I think the Islanders are a way better team.
Super pumped about the series because Vanbiesbrouck won’t be in net. That’s about the only intimidating Panther.
This is a rematch of the 2016 first round, when John Tavares tied the game at 1-1 with 53 seconds left in game 6. Then he scored in double OT, winning me $500.
It was the Isles’ first series win since Dave Volek scored on Tom freaking Barrasso in 1993.
Ah, yes, remember how Isles Nation thanked Tavares for snapping a 23 year drought? With class, dignity, and grace, right?
This time around, the Islanders bring a more balanced squad anchored by their defense. Young D-men including Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, and Adam Pelech have playoff experience and have blossomed under Barry Trotz’s system. Pulock and Pelech led the Isles in ice time this season and in confusingly similar names.
The Isles thought Pelech was out for the season, but the Coronavirus Gods bring boon as well as brimstone. The NHL’s “pause” allowed Pelech to fully recover from an Achilles injury that was a “freak accident” during pregame warmup in January.
Even with Pelech missing 30 games, the Islanders still finished 10th in goals against (and Florida in 28th). The Isles will be even better on D with all the horses in the stable and with a nice R&R for vets Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy.
Boychuk is also fresh off a freak injury: he got smoked in the face by a skate.
He had this epic tweet after getting 90 stitches in his fucking eye.
The other laceration victims, 4th liners Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck, are back. The Isles just play better with these two (plus beauty Matt Martin) in the mix. The Isles suck at faceoffs, and went 42% without Cizikas.
Can’t wait to see the Identity Line get the Coli rocking to start this series off. Matt Martin missing point-blank chances in front of the net is totally worth when you get to see his goofy ass pinball from corner to corner flattening people.
As for Florida: they’re real good at hockey.
I know more about Keith Yandle than I thought I ever would thanks to Chiclets, and he’s pretty good. The Panthers have 5 20+ goal scorers, which is pretty good. But their #3 points guy is Mike Hoffman. No offense to the Hoffmeister, but if he’s in your top 3, you’re not a good team.
Unless John Vanbiesbrouk hops in net, the Panthers don’t stand a chance. I don’t think Bob (Sergei Bobrovsky) is going to outplay Varlamov and/or Greiss. He put up 3.23 GAA this year.
BUTTT: if Bob really shits the bed, Chris Drieger is waiting with a career-high .938 save percentage (at any level of hockey) and 2.05 GAA. Driedger only has 15 total NHL games, but the Panthers started him 3 games in a row in March (2-0-1). He only gave up 4 total goals to Boston, Montreal, and St. Louis.
So, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the play-in series. Would also be a sick story for Driedger who spent time in the ECHL in ‘17-’18 and ‘18-’19.
Unless the Isles are goaded into Florida’s run-and-gun style, their responsible style will get them through the play-in round.
Isles Anxiety Level: 2/10