The New York Islanders beat the Florida Panthers 2-1 on Saturday in game 1 of the series. The Islanders looked very sharp and were enforcing their style of Hockey onto the opposing Panthers. There were three performances that stuck out to me in this hard-fought victory.
The New York Islanders’ Third Line
The third line was probably the best line on the ice yesterday. This line, anchored by Jean-Gabriel Pageau, created countless chances through their forechecking. Tom Kuhnhackl was putting in 110% effort into his forechecking, and this effort would set up the first goal of the game by Pageau, and assisted by Derick Brassard. This line played smart the entire game and didn’t try to get too fancy, got the pucks deep, and chased. The key to this series for the Islanders is to have their depth outplay the other team.
The number of times I said, “Wow, Anthony Beauvillier is so good” yesterday is uncountable. Beauvillier seems like he’s the best player on the ice at all times. He’s insanely fast, strong on the puck, has a good wrist shot, and can read 2v1 situations like no other. Beauvillier’s powerplay goal was a great goal, as well. I’m just very impressed by the kid, he went from possibly not making the team to being one of the best on the team.
The New York Islanders don’t have a shot of winning without Adam Pelech. This is not an over-exaggeration or a knock against the other defenseman. Adam Pelech is the most impactful player the Islanders have. Pelech is not just impactful on the ice but off the ice as well. The culture change is with Pelech. I mean, there’s a whole fan group with more than 2,500 members about Pelech called the #PelechPosse created by BathtubJake. Besides that, Pelech played out of his mind yesterday, he literally bodyslammed a Panther. His play surprised no Islander fan but surprised every NHL fan.
Seymon Varlamov is my honorable mention for this list. Varlamov made 27 saves on 28 shots. Anytime a goalie only lets in one goal, you have to give credit to him. He didn’t make my list, though, due to the performances by the other three players. Also, the one goal he let in was not a goal that should’ve went in.
If the Islanders play like this every game, it’s an easy sweep. If the Islanders take game 2, you could be looking at another sweep. But, you can’t get ahead of yourself like that, take it one game at a time—game 1 to the Island.