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Three reasons why the Islanders were swept by Hurricanes

The New York Islanders were swept in the second round of the Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Playoffs and for good reason;  They were completely outplayed in Games 3 and 4 and couldn’t shine when the moments were brightest.  They had a fantastic season, that can be wrapped up here, but were ultimately unable to capture the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.  Here are the three reasons why the Islanders were swept by the Hurricanes;

 

No sustained zone time

Probably the biggest issue that the Islanders had all series was their inability to stay in the ‘Canes zone for any amount of time.  They would dump it in, get a shot off that usually hit off a Hurricane, then the puck would be tossed out of the zone and they would start all over again.

The Islanders had plenty of secondary opportunities to score against the ‘Canes but they didn’t because A) they just couldn’t stuff the puck in the net and B) many of the secondary opportunities were gone already because the Isles failed to keep the puck in their offensive zone.

The Hurricanes played the Islanders like the Islanders played the Penguins;  A hard-nosed, grind-it-out type defense that trapped you in the slot and made you take low danger shots from the outside.  The Islanders had most of those shots blocked and the Hurricanes kept them at bay for the entire series, with them giving up only one 5-on-5 goal.

If the Islanders had had more sustained zone time, they would have had more 5-on-5 goals and thus would have probably still been playing at this moment.  But they didn’t and they were swept for that exact reason.

Couldn’t punch back when they needed to

The second most important factor of the Isles’ demise was their inability to strike back after the Hurricanes had scored a big goal.  Game 1 it was impossible because they lost in overtime, but they had opportunities in Games 2, 3, and 4 to punch back and they just couldn’t.

They went into Game 2 with a 1-0 lead going into the third but they were punched in the mouth just minutes into the period and could never get up despite hitting three or four posts.  Game 3 was frustrating because they were tied 2-2 going into the third but let Sebastian Aho’s beautiful tip and Justin Williams’ game sealing goal deflate them.  They could have kept fighting but instead only had two shots in 14 minutes of action in the third.  Game 4 was a heartbreaker as they took a lead very early in the game but immediately gave it back.  It felt like they were fighting uphill the entire time and they never really looked comfortable in the moment.

Not enough high end skill

The number one priority for the Islanders to work on in the offseason is their top six forwards.  They have a lot of good glue guys and guys who had solid years, but no one who then can rely on to consistently score.  Mathew Barzal is a world-class hockey player but he’s more of a facilitator than a goal scorer.  Jordan Eberle was fantastic in the first round but terrible in the second round, and he may be gone after the season anyway.  Anders Lee is a perennial 30 goal scorer but he scores most of his goals directly in front of the net.

The Islanders lost because the Hurricanes from top to bottom had more high end skill, skill that could change a puck from hitting off the post to going in the net.  Their passes were crisper, their defensemen jumped into the rush more smoothly, and the ‘Canes were able to finish most of their opportunities while the Islanders were not.

 

It’s not rocket science when I say the Islanders lost the series because the Hurricanes were the better team.  What is surprising is that the Islanders had every opportunity to win each of the four games and did not.  They really only lost because they couldn’t capitalize on the chances they had and didn’t have an answer for when the Hurricanes did capitalize.  The series was pretty even throughout and the difference between being swept and sweeping is more or less a goal or two.

That’s no excuse for the Islanders, as a bad four or five minutes in an entire series doesn’t make up for the fact that they were outclassed.  However, it does show that with this loss they can grow and hopefully not make the same mistake twice.

 

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