Islanders’ Storylines Heading Into the Second Round

As the Islanders wait for their second round opponent, either the Washington Capitals or Carolina Hurricanes, there’s still plenty of news and storylines to follow surrounding the team.

Boychuk out 3 to 4 Weeks

While Cal Clutterbuck, Jordan Eberle, and Scott Mayfield appear to be getting healthy and will be ready for the second round, the same cannot be said about Johnny Boychuk, who will miss three to four weeks with a lower-body injury after blocking a shot in Game 4 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Thomas Hickey is expect to be inserted into the lineup, but it doesn’t mean Boychuk’s presence won’t be missed.

Boychuk is one of the few Islanders with considerable playoff experience and a Stanley Cup ring, which he won with the Boston Bruins in 2011. His absence will be felt, especially if the Islanders’ next opponent is the Capitals. But the Islanders, including Hickey himself, are confident in their strategy and systems heading into the second round regardless of who’s in the lineup.

Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey
Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey (Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports)

Hickey brings his own experience to the back end, along with a pair of fresh legs. He was a mainstay on the Islanders’ back end until his injury against the Colorado Avalanche in December. The good news is that players who get inserted into the lineup play a specific role and are part of a larger strategy and group effort, one that was so successful against the Penguins.

Guys going back for pucks, in the neutral zone, I knew everything that was going to happen because we were executing things so well. It’s just about outworking them and sticking to the plan — I don’t think we budged all series.

From ‘With time to prepare for Round 2, how do the Isles adjust to Johnny Boychuk’s absence on defense?’ | The Athletic, 04/19/19

Hickey played an important role during the Islanders’ 2016 playoff run and team will look to him to have a big second round and play with the same intensity.

Back to Brooklyn

Much to the chagrin of Islanders fans, the team will be playing the rest of their playoff hockey in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center. In spite of the Barclays’ issues, fans have shown they can bring their intensity to Brooklyn.

In addition, the Islanders played well in Brooklyn this season, with nearly identical records at both the Barclays Center and the Coliseum; 12-7-1 in Brooklyn and 12-7-2 in Hempstead. What has some fans concerned is the players ability to adapt to a very different game day routine.

Barclays Center
Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY

The players live on Long Island, many of them near the team’s practice facility in East Meadow, and just like the fans, the players will need to adjust how they prepare for games. Head coach Barry Trotz wasn’t ready to reveal how the team will prepare for the change, but mentioned to Andrew Gross of Newsday that “Right now, we’re looking at all options and what makes the most sense.”

Time off Between Series

As the Capitals and Hurricanes series continues, the Islanders sit idle and will continue to wait until at least the middle of next week. This allows players to get healthy who were banged up in round one against the Penguins. It also gives the coaching staff plenty of time to do their homework on both possible opponents and create a strategy heading into the second round.

Sidney Crosby, Robin Lehner
New York Islanders goaltender Robin Lehner stops Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The downside to the extended break is that the team can lose some momentum, as well as the rhythm they had during the course of the first round.

We’ve got some time here,” Trotz said. “The good of it is that some guys, the bumps and bruises, the nagging injuries that come during the playoffs, we’ve got a little bit of time. That’s the positive. “The negative is you’ve got maybe a lot of time where you lose a little bit of sharpness, you lose a little bit of the focus, whatever. So the goal for us right now is to have a real specific plan.”

Barry Trotz speaking to Brian Compton |

It will certainly be a challenge for both the players and the coaches, but with how the team has played all year how closely they have followed their strategy, the time off may prove to be an advantage.

The Islanders have proved they’re for real, but people’s memories are short. They’ll need a strong showing in the second round if they want to continue to grow as a team and have success in the future. For now, they await the result of the Capitals and Hurricanes.