Islanders vs Hurricanes Game 2 Preview


The New York Islanders will look to bounce back in Game 2 after dropping their series opener against the Carolina Hurricanes, 2-1 on Monday. They must put the loss in the review mirror and focus on getting a split on the road before returning home to UBS Arena for Games 3 and 4 on the weekend. While they were right there with the Hurricanes until the final horn sounded, and some areas need improvement if they want to even the series on Wednesday.

Isles vs. Canes: Game 1 Recap

The Hurricanes showed why they are one of the best defensive teams in the NHL, limiting the Islanders to just 26 shots. The good news for the Islanders is that they outscored the Hurricanes during even-strength play. However, they allowed both Carolina goals while shorthanded and failed to convert on four power-play opportunities. Sebastian Aho and Stefan Noesen scored the power-play goals for the Hurricanes, while defenceman Brent Burns and forward Martin Necas each added two assists.

Brent Burns Carolina Hurricanes
Brent Burns, Carolina Hurricanes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Antti Raanta got the start for the Hurricanes; he posted a 19-3-3 record during the regular season and had a strong performance in Game 1. Ilya Sorokin did what he’s done for most of the season and kept the Islanders within striking range throughout the night. He stopped 35 of Carolina’s 37 shots while posting a .946 save percentage (SV%), giving his team every chance to come away with a win.

Ryan Pulock played a strong game for the Islanders, scoring their lone goal and leading the team physically with nine hits. Head coach Lane Lambert praised his defenceman after the game saying, “I thought it was the most physical game I’ve seen him play, and I thought he played amazing.”

What the Islanders Need to Win

The Islanders must find a way to break through the Hurricanes’ nearly impenetrable defence. They are so good at forcing teams to the outside while rarely giving up quality chances from high-danger areas. The Islanders’ defence accounted for 7 of their 26 shots during Game 1, and they will need more shots from the point with high traffic in front to find the back of the net.

Related: Islanders & Hurricanes Defenses Highlight Good vs. Elite

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With this in mind, the Isles boast one of the more physical teams in the league and will need to lean on that style of play to wear down Carolina. Getting pucks in deep with a heavy forecheck will make the Hurricanes more susceptible to turning over the puck. They had success with their forecheck in Game 1 but made some errant passes which negated any opportunity of creating a scoring chance. They will need to have better puck management if they want to score more goals against the Hurricanes tonight.

Islanders vs. Hurricanes: Players to Watch

Mathew Barzal played his first game since suffering a lower-body injury on Feb 18. He managed two shots on goal in 21:12 time on the ice. Expect Barzal to get better with each game as he shakes off the rust from missing the final 23 games of the season. He had strong zone entries on the Islanders’ first power play, but as the game went on, the Hurricanes were able to prevent clean entries, which was a significant factor in New York’s hapless power play. Barzal will be leaned on heavily to get the offence going and tie the series tonight.

Mathew Barzal New York Islanders
Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Brock Nelson, the Islanders’ regular season scoring leader (with 36 goals and 39 assists in 82 games), will need to generate more shots on goal. He led the team with 222 shots in 2022-23 but mustered only two shots in Game 1. Nelson’s won the NHL Accuracy Shooting contest in his first All-Star Game appearance this season.

The Hurricanes will be looking to get more offence at five-on-five. Aho will continue to be the Islanders’ focus, as keeping the ‘Canes’ leading scorer off the scoresheet should frustrate a team that had offensive struggles of their own over the season.

Burns led the Hurricanes with six shots in Game 1. He picked up two power-play assists, one of which came from a redirected blast from the point. He will play a significant role in the series outcome if he continues to provide offence for the Hurricanes. Both teams defend the slot very well, but the Islanders will need to be more proficient at blocking shots from the point as they advance in the series.

Raanta vs. Sorokin

Raanta will again get the start for the Hurricanes after allowing just one goal in Game 1. It will be vital for the Islanders to have a heavier net-front presence and shake the goaltender’s confidence early. In 13 playoff games last season, Raanta posted impressive numbers with a 2.26 GAA and a .922 SV%.

Antti Raanta Carolina Hurricanes
Antti Raanta, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Sorokin gave the Islanders precisely what they needed from him in Game 1. However, he may need to be even better for his team to even the series tonight. He has limited playoff experience, with eight career postseason games and a respectable 2.69 GAA and a .925 SV%. Now he must steal a game, as he continues to be the heartbeat of the Islanders.

Islanders vs. Hurricanes: Game 2 Outlook

Special teams will be another critical factor in tonight’s game. Unfortunately, the Islanders’ power play has struggled all season, and they will need to find a way to overcome the Hurricanes’ stellar penalty kill. Likewise, they will need to walk a fine line while playing their physical style but be disciplined enough not to give the Hurricanes too many looks with the man advantage.

Related: 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Hurricanes vs Islanders Series Preview

An early goal by the Islanders will go a long way, as the PNC Arena is one of the loudest buildings to play in during the postseason. Weathering the storm early and getting an early lead could quiet the raucous crowd and allow the Islanders to display their defensive prowess instead of chasing the game.

Overall, expect another close contest between two teams that are defensive specialists. Look for the Islanders to put together a strong 60-minute effort en route to a crucial win on the road. The puck drop is slated for 7 ET. Be sure to tune in.

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