Can the Islanders upset the Hurricanes in a battle against the NHL?
The Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Islanders are both teams that do things the same. Overall, the brilliance – and elimination – of these teams sometimes boils down to how they deviate from NHL trends and conventions.
Isles general manager Lou Lamoriello likes to suddenly fire coaches almost as often as he directs Mr. Burns’ hatred of Mattingly’s sidekicks by asking his players to have every hair to remove the face/sign of humanity. On the other end, every year, the Hurricanes throw the puck enough to set “fancy stat” computers on fire.
In marching to the beat of their own drums, the Hurricanes and Islanders sometimes parade in parallel. While so many NHL teams struggle to possess the puck and limit seemingly low-calorie point shots, the Hurricanes and Islanders happily cough up the cookie for interest the chaos in general.
If you didn’t know about these teams, you would think that their trading methods would be turned upside down.
Despite their playoff chances being very doubtful, the Islanders mortgaged their future in a way that would be competitive, especially placing a big bet on Bo Horvat. Meanwhile, a Hurricanes team that was constantly knocking on the door decided not to invest in a noisy, expensive seam ram. Instead, they made the kind of investments (spending a bit on Jesse Puljujarvi and Shayne Gostisbehere) that you’d expect from a bubble team unsure if a playoff run was even happening. These moves would be laughed at if the Hurricanes weren’t so often the smartest people in the proverbial room.
The strange staccato rhythms of these franchises defy expectations for this series. Normally, a team that barely scraped into the playoffs (the Islanders) would carry a “nothing to lose” attitude against a team that won their division for a second straight season. each other (Hurricane). Instead, both teams enter the playoffs a little quickly, but with legitimate urgency.
In the grand scheme of things, this could come down to the Hurricanes’ pressure waves creating “volume” of chances compared to the Islanders who struggle for quality. It is an advanced team trying to get past the superhuman goalkeeper Ilya Sorokin.
However, it’s also a strange beast in a series, because it’s not the simplest of David vs. Goliath stories. The Islanders might be the David who decided to spend a ton of money on a prime slingshot, while the Goliath wondered if it was cost effective to even bother with a helmet.
Ideally, the off-beat features of this series will fit into a hockey jam session with a touch.
What have you done for me lately?
Neither the Hurricanes nor the Islanders have been true disasters, but both teams are entering the playoffs after a layoff… or three.
Before Andrei Svechnikov was lost for the season, the Hurricanes were the second best team in the NHL behind the historic Bruins. Since then, they have been closer to average, finishing 9-8-1 in their last 18 games.
The Hurricanes still chew on the puck like a dog protecting its food, but it’s hard to shake the feeling (and early evidence) that their ceiling is lower without an extra punch from Svechnikov or Max Pacioretty.
Let’s be honest, though: the Hurricanes were solving “champagne problems” while the Islanders were fighting for playoff survival. Such a desperate loss to the Capitals and the Blue Jackets was difficult to stomach, but when you move out, the Islanders found a way to make up ground in a tight race.
The Hurricanes have won three of four head-to-head games with the Islanders this season, holding a 12-9 edge in goals scored.
The Hurricanes win this series if…
By almost any measure, the Hurricanes have a better team game than the Islanders. If Frederik Andersen can stay healthy and play well, and special teams get balanced, Carolina has the big advantage.
The Islanders win this series if…
Ilya Sorokin ends up being the big difference-maker he often is, and the Islanders also finish their chances at a higher rate than the (again) over-sized -the quality of Hurricanes they make.
Sebastian Aho is one of those players who has been listed as undervalued for so long, it’s getting old. It’s called Aleksander Barkov Syndrome or The Loui Eriksson Before He Got Too Much Responsibility. Either way, this seems like one of those times for Aho to take over a streak, right?
Fernando Pisani Cup (Unsung Hero)
This one is difficult because some people may not yet be on the bandwagon of Jaccob Slavin (worldwide defense) or Martin Necas (team leader in scoring). A casual fan hero is a tune, a tune that a nerd like myself has heard all too often.
So, here’s an underrated guy having a rough season that might surprise him: Teuvo Teravainen. For a deeper cut that could go on fire: Jordan Martinook.
Hurricanes in seven.