Tonight the Panthers and Islanders will face off in a rare playoff back-to-back. I guess the NHL knew that Game 1 was going to be so exciting that we wouldn’t be able to wait another day for Game 2. Just kidding. On a serious note, it apparently has to do with the fact that there was a concert in Florida on Wednesday (so they had to play yesterday) and there’s a boxing event at Barclay’s this weekend, so the NHL’s hands were tied. By the way, don’t quote me on that, I was told by some people on Twitter that was the case and didn’t care enough to actually dig into it.
Last night’s game was the definition of a back-and-fourth affair, eventually resulting in a 5-4 win for the Islanders. Coming into the series it looked like the Islanders were going to be in trouble without Jaroslav Halak and Anders Lee, but captain John Tavares looked like a man on a mission last night, basically willing the Isles to victory.
Watch him weave through the Panthers and feed Frans Nielsen to tie the game late in the first.
Roberto Luongo didn’t exactly look sharp in the Panthers net last night, but that won’t stop them from going back to him tonight. Thomas Greiss will start again as well, he faced 46 shots last night, stopping 42 of them. It seemed like he could stop anything, unless it came off of the stick of Reilly Smith, who had an excellent night, scoring two goals on eight shots with one assist. Check out this snipe from the former Bruin, but that is as close as the Panthers would get.
Heading into game two, Panthers head coach Gerrard Gallant did not put the loss on Luongo and simply said that his team “needs to tighten up defensively.” When you score four goals, offence definitely isn’t the issue, but they will need to find a way to slow down Tavares and the Islanders’ top-line. They will make a switch on the blueline, as Mike Matheson is expected to replace Jakub Kindl in the lineup tonight. The Islanders would not announce any possible lineup changes heading into Game 2, so expect the same lineup as long as everyone from last night is available.
You can bet the Isles will have a closer eye on Smith and the second line tonight, which might open the door for the Panthers top line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr to find the back of the net. Despite having a tremendous year and 199 career playoff points, Jagr has not scored a goal in 32 consecutive playoff games—his last playoff goal came when on April 13th, 2012 in an 8-5 win when he was with the Flyers. That’s a streak the 44-year-old would definitely like to snap.
Prediction: Panthers Win
Brock’s 2015-16 Prediction Record: 3-4
While I went 4-0 on the point spread last night, I went 2-2 in straight up winners. The Panthers let me down last night, but I’m sticking with them tonight. I expect a much better performance from their top-line and Luongo. Greiss will also be a little fatigued after facing a 46 shot attempts.