Somehow, someway the New York Islanders have a 2-1 series lead over the Florida Panthers. The Islanders have to feel a bit fortunate to be up in this series because overall the Panthers have had the edge in play in the first three games. However, some big saves by Thomas Greiss, special teams and incredible resilience has given New York the upper hand. Keep in mind each team has scored ten goals so far in this series. Having said all of that I am here to tell you that the Islanders must win Game 4!
WINNER! Thomas Hickey beats Roberto Luongo in OT to give the Islanders a 2-1 series lead. pic.twitter.com/KRUNN8BE5Z
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 18, 2016
The Time is Now
The Islanders have an opportunity going into Game 4 to take control of this series. New York gets a chance to hold serve at home in the Barclays Center to give themselves a 3-1 series lead.
Keep in mind the Islanders were in this exact position one year ago. Last April, the Islanders were coming off a huge Game 3 overtime win at home versus the Washington Capitals. Sound familiar? But Washington won Game 4, making it a best of three while also regaining home ice advantage.
If the Panthers win Game 4 they will be in the same circumstances as the Capitals were a year ago and that is an advantageous position. Almost every playoff team would sign up for a best of three series with home ice in a heartbeat.
The Islanders must remember and learn from last year how important it is when you are up in a series to take control when the opportunity presents itself. They were unable to do so in a couple of opportunities last year. So far in this series, New York is 0-for-1 in that scenario. Game 4 must be different.
Everyone Needs to Contribute
If the Islanders are going to win this series then they will need contributions from everyone in the lineup. As great as John Tavares is playing (6 points in 3 games) he cannot win this series all by himself.
It was a positive sign that the much maligned second line of Nikolay Kulemin, Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey were the unit that scored the OT game winner in Game 3. They need to contribute offensively but more importantly their defensive game must dramatically improve.
New York’s third line, which Islanders’ commentator Butch Goring called “The Kid Line”, has shown a great amount of speed and energy. The line of Alan Quine, Ryan Strome and Shane Prince have held their own in this series by contributing goals in Game’s 1 and 3. In addition, each guy has been a plus player so far this series (Quine is a +2 & Strome & Prince is a +3).
Everyone knows what New York will get from their number one line and Tavares, as well as their fourth line, which many have dubbed as the best fourth line in hockey. Getting enough contributions out of the other two lines would lead New York to their first playoff series win since 1993.
Islanders, in need of scoring, must follow captain John Tavares' example https://t.co/b7sYb0PEZR
— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) April 17, 2016
Game 4 – Play from in Front
The Islanders have played the games in this series the hard way, which has been from behind. There has not been many moments so far in this series that New York has played with a lead. Given that, to be up two games to one, the Isles should be counting their lucky stars.
Coming back in NHL playoff games is not an easy task. The Islanders did so three times in Game 1 and came back twice from two goal deficits in Game 3. That speak volumes of the Islanders never give up DNA.
Having said that New York needs to turn the tables on Florida and make them go on an uphill climb in Game 4. I would not want to have to rely on coming back on a nightly basis in order to win this series, not to mention against a world-class goalie in Roberto Luongo?
The time is now for the New York Islanders to take the next step in their development as a team. On Wednesday night, New York has to want it more than Florida and that mindset has to start with the first shift. It’s time for this team to take the next step.