The New York Islanders are out.
After sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1, the Islanders got a taste of their own medicine and became victims of a sweep in round two, getting bounced in four games by the Carolina Hurricanes -- a seven-seed making its first playoff appearance in a decade.
So, just how did things fall apart so quickly for New York? Let's take a look at a handful of reasons that summer vacation on Long Island begins now.
They couldn't score
Simply put, it's hard to win if you don't score, and the Islanders just could not muster enough offense in this series. They scored five goals in four games, including being shutout in the series opener. Of those five goals, only two came at even-strength and one of those was a Brock Nelson garbage time goal in Game 4 when the series was already all but over. The other three goals came on the power play.
Believe it or not, the Isles actually led the series in scoring chances at even-strength, edging out Carolina 92-86 on the whole. But those chances rarely led to results, even in high-danger areas. The Islanders didn't score a single even-strength goal in the slot during this series, whereas all of Carolina's 5-on-5 offense came from the house in front of the net.
The series shot map is pretty amazing:
The Islanders' offense was led by the Jordan Eberle-Mat Barzal tandem in round one, but they were almost completely shut down in round two. Barzal had two goals and Eberle recorded three assists, but all of that production came on the power play. They got zilch at even-strength and were a minus-four and minus-two on the series, respectively. After scoring in every game of round one, Eberle had a goose egg in the goals department in round two.
Denial of momentum
Perhaps one reason for the Islanders' struggles on offense is because of their inability to keep momentum on their side in this series. After round one,and their refusal to lay down in the face of adversity. It's fair to address a similar sentiment after this series thanks to Carolina's annoying tendency to snatch momentum away from New York.
Any time it seemed like the Islanders were starting to get a wave of confidence behind them, the Hurricanes would step in front the train, slow it down and take back strength for themselves. That should sound familiar to the Islanders, who were able to do the same thing to Pittsburgh in round one. This time, though, they were the ones left frustrated.
This was especially true in a do-or-die Game 4 for the Islanders, who got a big goal from Barzal to open the game just a few minutes into the first period. But that lead lasted all of 2:14 before the Hurricanes were able to respond with a deflating power play goal of their own from Sebastian Aho. The Hurricanes went on to score the next four goals and put the series on ice.
Finishing legs from Canes
The Hurricanes had the better legs in this series, specifically later in games. Whether you want to chalk it up to their conditioning, their coaching or motivational tactics, the Canes finished games stronger -- as they have for pretty much this entire postseason.
We've already gone over the Islanders' offensive struggles as a whole, but it's worth pointing out that they got almost nothing late in the four games of this series. In the third period and overtime, the Islanders outscored New York 7-1 overall.
In Game 1, things were pretty tight at the end but the Hurricanes scored the game's lone goal to win in OT. In Game 2, Carolina entered the third period trailing by one but put two goals on the board in the first 65 seconds of the third period and won 2-1. In Game 3, it was 2-2 after two before the Hurricanes exploded for three goals in the third. In Game 4, they punched their ticket by protecting a big lead they earned in the second period.
Change of venue
After playing their first round home games at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders moved to Barclays Center for the second round (and beyond, if it came to that). It was the arrangement put in place for a team that split its home games between the two venues during the regular season, but everyone outside of Brooklyn should be able to agree that this decision was a terrible one.
As expected, Nassau brought some of the loudest, rowdiest crowds of the 16 home sites during the first round and they provided a legitimate home ice advantage for the Isles. At Barclays? Not so much. The drop-off in enthusiasm was noticeable for the first two games of this series and it's hard not to wonder what might have been had the Islanders stayed put. To have one of the strongest home-ice advantages in the playoffs and then just give it away? Man, what a shame.
Does anyone really want to step in front of the Carolina Hurricanes at this point? If there's a "team of destiny" in the field this year, it's the Canes, who seem unstoppable at this point. The defending champs couldn't slow them down. Injuries couldn't slow them down. A confident, well-rested opponent coming off a sweep couldn't slow them down.
Carolina has had a renaissance year under new leadership this season and they've been an extremely fun group to watch. They only seem to be getting stronger and, as a result, they'll be heading back to the Eastern Conference Final, which they've now reached in each of their last four playoff appearances.