5 reasons the NY Islanders won their qualifying round series

Anthony Beauvillier congratulated by Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

While the NY Islanders wait to find out tomorrow who their opponent will be as they enter the round of 16 this week, reflecting on how they won their first series is worth taking notice.

NY Islanders dominated the Florida Panthers

Let’s be honest here; the NY Islanders dominated the Florida Panthers in their best-of-five series. And if not for one hiccup from Semyon Varlamov in the third period of game three, they might have swept their Sunshine state opponent right out of the bubble.

But who stood out the most? What helped the Isles secure back-to-back first-round series wins for the first time since the mid-1980s?

Lets examine:

5. Special Teams coming up big

The special teams battle was a major storyline heading into the series, with some even thinking it could be the deciding factor. The Islanders’ power play was the worst in the NHL this season while Florida’s was ranked as one of the most lethal in the game. Shorthanded, both teams were more middle of the pack when the regular season was postponed.

Well, the Isles won the special teams battle.

The NY Islanders went 4-for-16 on the man-advantage in the four games played. The goals they received from Anthony Beauvillier in game one and Jordan Eberle the following contest were crucial to the Isles taking a stranglehold on the series. Game two saw the Islanders go 2-for-7 on the power play, including Eberle’s tally. Then in the clincher, Brock Nelson’ before the midpoint of the second period marker gave the Isles back all the momentum after the Panthers’ Mike Hoffman got his team within one on a power play towards the end of the first period.

As for the penalty kill, the Isles did allow four goals. However, that was out of 14 times shorthanded all series. That’s a huge victory and one they can use as momentum heading into their next series.

NY Islanders dominate Panthers
The Islanders kept a close eye on Mile Hoffman (NHLI/Getty Images)

4. Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews were stellar

All the talk in the series for the NY Islanders’ defense was meant to focus on the returning Adam Pelech. And no question he was effective in his own right, but it was the duo of Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews that was fantastic all series long.

Pulock and Toews, who tied for the most points for an Isles d-man in the series, combined for eight points. They were instrumental in the club’s success on the power play.

Both also did a bang-up job helping keep Florida’s heavy attack at bay.

Pulock’s timely block on Aleksander Barkov with the net wide open with the NY Islanders up 3-1 in game four kept the Panthers from getting back into the game.

Isles head coach Barry Trotz called that play, “one of those defining moments”. He said that play exemplified the commitment and extra effort it takes to win. Something Pulock — and Toews for that matter as well — showed all series long.

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3. J.G. Pageau’s coming out party

If not for Anthony Beauvillier’s dynamite performance (will get to him soon), then this series will have been all about J.G. Pageau and his presence at both ends.

Anchoring the third line, Pageau gave the Isles an edge in every facet of the game each time he was on the ice.

The team’s bubble ping-pong champion opened the scoring for the series and won 80% of his faceoffs in game one. He also got in the head mentally of Florida’s Brian Boyle in game two, and had good performances in games three and four. His empty-netter in the fourth game was also the last exclamation point on the Isles’ victory in game five.

Pageau was everything this series that G.M. Lou Lamoriello envisioned when he traded for him back before the trade deadline in February.

Oh and for him being clutch in the postseason? Pageau after the Florida series now has 15 goals in 39 career playoff games.

2. Shutting down Florida’s vaunted attack

Everyone knew coming in that Florida had a lot more offensive firepower in their arsenal than the Isles. After all, they were the sixth-best offense in the NHL from a statistical standpoint.

But the Islanders obviously didn’t get the memo.

Other than Mike Hoffman, the Panthers’ offense never got a chance to really find their legs in this series because of how the structured the Islanders were in the defensive zone.

At even strength, the Isles gave up just three goals; an even bigger key to the team’s triumph.

A lot of credit should go to Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock who were tasked with trying to contain Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgeni Dadonov. Those three combined for just two goals and eight points in four games.

The main point here is the goals. Letting up only two goals shows the Isles D and their forwards gave that threesome very little room to work with.

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1. Anthony Beauvillier couldn’t be stopped

Beauvillier was a full-blown monster in this series.

He was the Islanders’ best player in all four games and was the team’s most dangerous forward. Furthering that, Beauvillier was just “having fun” out there.

The 23-year-old led the Isles with five points in the series — three goals and two assists.

Beauvillier was on a line with Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey for the series and thrived. His hustle and overwhelming speed made him the catalyst for many of the important moments throughout the series. His work on the power play and penalty kill was exceptional as well.

The confidence Beauvillier was showing also resonated with his teammates, particularly Mathew Barzal.

“Beau’s line, lot of the forwards, they came out hard and played that way. For myself, it took me a game or two to get that touch and feel back,” Barzal said yesterday.

Barry Trotz also praised Beauvillier for what a strong performance he had for his team.

“Right now, Beau is enjoying playing good hockey and he’s getting rewarded for it with production. “He’s skating on the puck, he’s working. He’s focused on his job in that moment. That’s the maturity of a good, young player in Beau. Earlier, a year or two back if he wasn’t having any production he’d worry too much about that rather than just playing well. [Right now] he’s just worried about going out and playing [his] best.” 

All in all, it was a great series for Beauvillier and the NY Islanders overall. The next round won’t be any easier with the Bruins or Capitals calling. But if they can get a repeat of above, they can definitely win.

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