Islanders-Hurricanes predictions: An Eastern Conference executive, player and coach weigh in

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Islanders-Hurricanes predictions: An Eastern Conference executive, player and coach weigh in

Most of the pundits who watch the NHL aren’t giving the Islanders much of a chance against the Hurricanes.

We assembled three insiders to give us their views — an executive, a coach and a current player, all from the Eastern Conference, so they have seen both teams plenty. And guess what? These three aren’t giving the Islanders much of a chance either.

Here’s what they see:

Why are the Hurricanes such heavy favorites for you?

The exec: “These guys were the best team in the league from Jan. 1 on (32-10-3). They’re definitely still a little in “show-me” mode in the playoffs for me because they’ve gotten close a couple times, but never gotten over the hump considering how good they’ve been in the regular season for a few years now. Freddie Andersen has been great since coming back from the blood-clot issue but he has a lot to prove in the playoffs since he hasn’t been able to stay healthy when they need him. Jake Guentzel has been a huge boost to their offense, he’s really given them what they needed. And they were already pretty good.”

The coach: “You look at the series between these two last year and it was a lot of special teams that decided it. Now you have Carolina with one of the best power plays in the league this year and the Islanders can’t kill anything off consistently. Plus Carolina’s penalty kill is a full-out assault, they come as fast as any PK in the league and that could be a problem for the Islanders.

“Carolina’s going to play man (to man) all over the ice. We all know they have the best shot volume in the league. They’re throwing pucks from everywhere, they rim pucks in, their D will pinch from both sides to keep the play going in the offensive zone. The key for any team playing them is you have to win those puck retrievals. They want to outwork you off their point shots and get you out of position. They do it well.”

The player: “The way they come at you is relentless at times. They obviously have some skilled guys, but it feels like the secret to their success is how similar everyone on their roster plays — first line, fourth line, doesn’t really matter to them. I’m not sure the Islanders have the depth to slow them down. Carolina likes to play fast — they get on you fast, they get up the ice fast. The Islanders aren’t really that style of team. That third line (Jordan Martinook–Jordan Staal–Andrei Svechnikov) looks like a checking line but I think that might be the line that gives them the edge.”



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What can the Islanders do to gain the advantage?

The exec: “Probably in goal. (Ilya) Sorokin had a down year, he must have gotten worn down by the way they played before (Patrick) Roy took over. But even if it’s (Semyon) Varlamov in net, he’s been good and he’s got a nice track record for them, but is that enough? Either one of them is going to see 35-40 shots at least every game in this series. They might need both guys before it’s over.”

The coach: “They have to get to the inside and stay in the offensive zone. (Brent) Burns, (Jaccob) Slavin, (Brett) Pesce — that Carolina D is no joke. But if the Islanders can get to the inner slot, that’s an area you can take advantage of them. Andersen has been good but goaltending is probably Carolina’s weak point still. If the Islanders are spending every shift in their own end and just getting pucks out so they can change, it won’t work. Check the zone time after each game — if Carolina’s getting seven minutes or more in the O zone, that’s going to kill the Islanders. If they (Isles) get 4-5 minutes a night in the O zone, they have a chance.”

The player: “I like the way the Islanders have been playing lately. They look a lot more like the Islanders of a few years ago, contesting every puck, making you earn what you get from them. That gives them a chance. When you play a game at their pace, you can’t do what you’d normally do. They’ve got a lot of guys going — (Kyle) Palmieri has been good, (J-G) Pageau has had some good playoff runs, maybe (Ryan) Pulock can turn it up a notch. With them, you’re not really looking for one guy to take over.”



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What’s the verdict?

The exec: “The Islanders had a nice run to get in but it still doesn’t feel like the Barry Trotz Islanders. They give up too much and this is the wrong team they’re facing to have trouble with shots and chances against. Don’t really see any way the Canes lose this one.”

The coach: “I think it’s closer than people think. This Islander team is a veteran team, they’re better than last year with a full year of (Bo) Horvat, they’re healthier, more experienced. And last year was a close series — couple overtimes, couple fluky goals. So if the Islanders are better and they almost pulled it off last season. I still don’t think they can do it but I can see a long series.”

The player: “Canes in six — too much depth and not enough on the other side.”

(Photo: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)