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How the Pause Affects the Islanders’ Stanley Cup Dreams

The National Hockey League season stopped abruptly due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 12. The New York Islanders were in Calgary for their game against the Flames when the season was shut down. They were also in the middle of a seven-game losing streak, going 0-3-4 in those contests.

It was announced by the NHL on June 11 that July 10 was the official date for mandatory training camps, to resume pending clearance from medical professionals. The Islanders are back to some kind of normalcy, at least.

And now with the return of hockey imminent, the Islanders shift their focus to the Play-In series with the tenth seed Florida Panthers. For a full breakdown of the new Stanley Cup Playoffs format, check out this article. How will the pause affect the Islanders’ Stanley Cup odds?  Let’s break it down.


Throw out the past

As previously mentioned, the Islanders were on a seven-game losing streak.  Lucky for them, they did get four points. If they hadn’t, they would be playing a much more formidable opponent. The Florida Panthers have plenty of talent, but they aren’t exactly world beaters.

Having a restart on the season means the Islanders can throw out their 2019-20 regular season, good, bad and indifferent.  They went on a 17-game point streak at the beginning of the season and then a seven-game losing streak. In between was some sluggish play and a lot of treading water.

None of it matters now, as the only thing the Islanders have to look forward to is the Florida Panthers.  As long as they beat the Panthers in their five game play-in series, they can move onto the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.


Everyone is healthy

The Islanders had some major injuries by March 12th. They were limping to the finish line with the loss of two of their marquee defensemen (Adam Pelech, Johnny Boychuk) and two-thirds of their most important line (Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck).

Cizikas, Clutterbuck and Boychuk are all back after suffering skate lacerations to different parts of their body, an impressive feat considering how rare skate lacerations are in this day and age. The most important piece they get back is Pelech, who was considered lost for the season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in January.

Pelech is one of the most underrated defensemen in the entire league and the rock of the Islanders’ stalwart defensive corps. Without him, the Islanders just weren’t the same team. Plus, Adam Pelech at 80% is better than no Pelech at all.


Need to start hot

None of this matters if the Islanders don’t take care of business immediately. The Panthers may not be an elite team, but they are talented and have a lot of stars. Sasha Barkov can take over a series by himself. With players like Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle, there’s plenty of firepower on both ends.

The key to this series will be the up-and-down Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky is an extremely talented goaltender who can be the X-Factor in this series. He hasn’t played up to his ridiculous contract all season, but if he gets hot the Islanders are in trouble.

For the Islanders to win this first series, they can’t come out of the gates slow. A Barry Trotz team is always prepared, but too many times the Islanders have come out sleepwalking for a period or two. The team needs to be consistent throughout the entire series.

It sounds cliche and obvious, but anything can happen in a five-game series and there isn’t really much time to recover. New York doesn’t want to put themselves in a 2-0 hole and have to fight their way out of it.  As long as they win Game 1, the Islanders’ Stanley Cup dreams should remain intact, but it’s a tall task after being away from the rink for three-plus months.


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