The New York Islanders and many fans from Long Island introduced Brooklyn to hockey playoffs last night with Thomas Hickey scoring the game winning goal in overtime to win the game 4-3 and the Isles lead the series 2-1. I’m not going to go into the game because all you have to do is go on any Islanders Facebook fan page or Twitter or any of the other Islanders media to catch up on the game. Before the playoffs started I had stated that this series would be all about momentum. and so far it has been nothing but momentum, so let’s compare the Islanders and Panthers series thus far.
The Islanders have no answer for Florida’s Riley Smith just as the Panthers do not have an answer for Islanders captain John Tavares. Both are on pace for the Conn Smyth Trophy and the Isles must find a way to contain the Smith line. The goaltending is also a wash as both teams are giving up 3.33 goals a game. If the Isles want to steal a game and literally take away all momentum, Thomas Greiss will have to grab a shutout or only give up one goal in a game to allow the Islanders to put a dagger into Florida. Granted, there have been two goals where Florida has banked the puck off the back of the boards and scored, but I don’t think they’ll get another opportunity like that again. By no means am I saying Greiss has been bad in this series, but stealing a game for his team would be ideal. The Florida core players like Bjugstad, Barkov and Kulikov are contributing while Tavares, Okposo, Nielsen, and Hickey are also dominating for the Isles.
Here’s the momentum swing that favors in the Islanders direction: Defenseman Ryan Pulock already has his first playoff goal, while Florida’s Aaron Ekblad doesn’t even have a point thanks to his goal being overturned because a video replay showed Jonathan Huberdeau was actually offside and changed the momentum of the game in the Islanders win last night. The new “Kid Line” of Ryan Strome, Shane Prince and Alan Quine are all coming into becoming a core group in their own right while Jonathan Huberdeau, & Alex Petrovic have yet to make a huge impact on the score sheet. As I have said before, there are a few Florida players who will be coming back from injury and may change the dynamic of the Panthers should they prolong this series, thus shifting momentum in their direction. Jaromir Jagr or Jiri Hudler have not recorded a goal in these playoffs as well. Roberto Luongo is not the Luongo we remember and that’s a good thing.
So as they enter game 4 in Brooklyn, the Islanders are 7-2 when leading a series 2-1 and are 9-0 when leading a series 3-1. The two losses were 1978 to Toronto and last year to the Caps (NYISkinny). This is the biggest momentum game in this series. There are some who believe that the Panthers should be up in this series 3-0 and they would be correct and by no means are the Panthers out of this series. The Islanders have been nothing but resilient in this series and they showed their experience in hanging around and taking advantage of opportunities when they’re presented. The Islanders are well aware of what’s at stake and getting this next win at home may just suck the life out of the Panthers. This one is on Greiss and if he can continue to stay sharp in net and just shut down the Panthers, it may be time for the Islanders fans to be excited for the immediate future.