Panthers vs Islanders - NHL Qualifying Round Preview & Prediction
As we continue to inch closer to the restart of the NHL season, I will continue to preview the Qualifying round of the playoffs. I am so looking forward to the restart of the season, which will go straight to the playoffs as the NHL has decided to scrap the rest of the regular season.
Here are other the previews I have done so far:
The NHL playoffs will have 24 teams in it with the 16 of those teams playing in eight best-of-five Qualifying round matchups. The Top four teams in each conference will then square off against each other in a round-robin style format to determine the seeding of those four teams. The four teams from the West that win their Qualifying Matchup will face the top four teams in that conference and the same for the East. The Western Conference playoffs will take play in one hub city and the Eastern Conference will do the same. The hub cities have not yet been announced.
Right now, I will look at the matchup between the Florida Panthers and the New York Islanders. The Islanders are favored to win the series at -115 while the Panthers come in at -105.
A Look At The Florida Panthers
Regular Season Stats & Rankings: The Panthers are 6th in scoring at 3.30 gpg, 7th in shots per game at 32.7, and 12th in powerplay conversions at 21.2%. On the defensive end of the ice, they finished at 29th in goals allowed at 3.25 gpg, 22nd in shots allowed at 32.3 spg, and 20th in penalty kill at 78.5%.
The Florida panthers were clearly saved by the pause as they were not playing all that well down the stretch and they finished three points out of the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference. Still, because of the expanded playoffs, the Panthers are now apart of the postseason. Florida did look good after rattling off six wins from January 9th to the 21st but they went just 7-13 over their final 20 games to knock themselves out of the top eight in the East. The offense had been a beast for much of the year but it really struggled down the stretch as the Panthers averaged just 2.40 gpg over their final 20 games. Despite that. They still finished 6th in the league in scoring. Getting their offense back on track in this series may not be that easy as the Islanders have been stingy in the crease this year. Jonathan Huberdeau led the team in points with 78 while Aleksander Barkov was 2nd with 62 and Mike Hoffman was 3rd with 59. Leading the team in goals was Hoffman with 29 while Evgenii Dadonov had 25 and Huberdeau had 23.
The crease is where the panthers really struggled as they were near the bottom of the league in goals allowed per game this year. They did allow just 10 total goals over their final five games but still went 2-3 over that stretch. Sergei Bobrovsky is the top guy in the crease and he went 23-22 with a 3.23 GAA on the year, including 11-13 with a 3.29 GAA on the road. His GAA overall this year was the highest in his career and it was the first time in the last eight years that he posted one over 2.75. Bobrovsky has gone 16-10 with a 2.10 GAA in his career against the Islanders and he is 11-16 with a 3.03 GAA in the playoffs. Chris Driedger will back up Bobrovsky and he has gone 7-3 with a 2.05 GAA on the year. He has never faced the Islanders and he has no playoff experience.
A Look At The New York Islanders
Regular Season Stats & Rankings: The Islanders are 22nd in scoring at 2.78 gpg, 28th in shots per game at 29.7, and 24th in powerplay conversions at 17.3%. On the defensive end of the ice, they finished at 9th in goals allowed at 2.79 gpg, 15th in shots allowed at 31.2 spg, and 15th in penalty kill at 80.7%.
It was not pretty at all for the New York Islanders down the stretch as they lost 11 of their final 13 games, including their last seven in a row. As I said, it was not pretty. Despite that, the Islanders finished in 7th place in the Eastern Conference with 80 points. Had the pause not happened and the teams would have finished the regular season, the Islanders could have very well missed the playoffs. They are hoping that the break has rejuvenated them enough to at least get past the Panthers and into the real playoffs. The offense was their major issue down the stretch as the Islanders averaged just 2.00 gpg over their final 13 games. They were shutout three times over that stretch. New York could be playing the perfect team as far as getting their offense back on track and they will need their offense to show up as the Panthers do know how to score. Leading the team in points was Mathew Barzal, who had 60 while Brock Nelson was 2nd with 54 and Anders Lee and Josh Bailey were both 3rd with 43. Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Nelson led the team in goals with 26 while 2nd was Lee with 20.
The bread and butter of this New York team is their play at the other end of the Ice. Last year, they finished 1st in goals allowed, and this year they were 9th. You wouldn’t know it by the way they finished the season, allowing an average of 4.14 gpg over their final seven games. This team does not have a good enough offense to overcome bad goaltending, so they need their goalies to show up in this series. Semyon Varlamov is the number one guy and he went 19-20 with a 2.62 GAA on the year, including 8-10 with a 2.36 GAA away from home. In his career, he has gone 8-4 with a 2.65 GAA against the Panthers and he is 10-9 with a 2.49 GAA in the postseason. Thomas Greiss will back up Varlamov and he has gone 16-13 with a 2.74 GAA on the year. In his career, he has gone 5-3 with a 2.10 GAA against the Panthers and he is 5-6 with a 2.49 GAA in the playoffs.
This is a tough one to call, especially with how both teams finished the season. The Florida Panthers have a good offense but they can’t stop teams from scoring and Sergei Bobrovsky does have a 3.03 GAA in his career in the postseason. The Islanders can’t score but they have been very solid in the crease for much of the year and Varlamov does have a 2.49 GAA in the postseason in his career. I have to feel that the New York offense will be able to get on track against the weaker goaltending of the Panthers. Florida did struggle to score down the stretch and New York is 9th in the league in goals allowed. The break should benefit the Islanders a bit more as they take this series in five games.