The Hurricanes could not be in better position right now being up 3-0 in a best out of seven series. And historically, the odds are 95+% chance of winning the series from here. But the margin of victory in all three games has been tiny, and the Islanders will certainly show up desperate and hungry today. The Hurricanes will need to also show up determined to ‘earn’ another victory and close the series out early. If instead, the team shows up expecting that be handed to them, then game 5 will be Sunday at Barclay’s Center in New York.
On the Islanders side of the ledger, the biggest thing is finding a way to generate more offense. The Isles did manage a series high two goals, but maybe most telling was that when they were down 3-2 in the third period the Hurricanes were capable of completely shutting them down for the entire middle of the third period to the point where the Islanders were not even able to get the puck on net.
On the Hurricanes side, the key is avoiding the complacency as noted above and equally so about extending the third period of game 3. The period was by far the team’s best of the series, finally on par with some of the efforts in the Capitals series and a level of play that should garner a fourth win if repeated on Friday.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the New York Islanders
1) A carry over from Wednesday’s third period
I am on record as characterizing the Hurricanes play in games 1 and 2 as decent and deserving but very clearly a notch below the peak level in these playoffs. After a fast start and a first goal, the front part of Wednesday’s game was maybe better but still nowhere near the peak. Then it happened. The Hurricanes scored early to claim the lead and then surged throughout most of the third period. The Canes scored only the one goal (not counting the empty-netters), but what stood out was the ability of the Canes forecheck to hem the Isles in and the ability of the blue line to retrieve and quickly reverse pucks dumped their way. The result was an upper hand offensively but more significantly a system and defense that stymied the Islanders. On Friday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can again dial up the forecheck and use it to gain the upper hand.
2) Opportunistic scoring strikes
Especially if the Hurricanes get the lead, the Islanders are likely to become a bit desperate offensively. That is not within their nature nor something that plays to their strengths. In this game, the potential is there for a 1-0 Canes lead to be extended rapidly if the Isles step out of character and the Hurricanes exploit it. So primarily if the Hurricanes strike first on the scoreboard, I will be watching to see if the Islanders start to gamble a bit and also if the Hurricanes can capitalize on it.
3) Special teams
In general, I am not sure either team really has an advantage in terms of special teams. But the Isles desperately need to do something different than games 1-3, and with adjustments that more regularly used a player at the side of the net, the Hurricanes struggled to defend them and did allow a power play goal against. If the game gets chippy and/or if the officials are active, special teams has the potential to become a wild card that changes the current path of the series. In that regard, I will be watching two things. First, I will be watching to see if special teams do come more into play. Second, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes make some adjustments to defend the Islanders trying to run their power play from behind the net.
The puck drops at 7:07pm at PNC Arena. Bring, but quietly hide your brooms. Nothing would be a bigger jinx than pulling them out prematurely.