It’s a battle of Metropolitan Division teams on the ice down in the Tar Heel State as a pair of teams open their season. The New York Islanders are on the road as they make the trip to face the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night. New York finished last season 32-17-7 and finished fourth in the East Division. The Islanders beat the Penguins in six games in the opening round of the playoffs before downing the Bruins in six games in the division finals. New York saw their season end with a seven-game loss to Tampa Bay in the conference finals. Carolina won the Central Division with a 36-12-8 mark on the year last season. The Hurricanes beat Nashville in six games in the opening round before losing to Tampa Bay in five games in the division finals. In the head-to-head series, Carolina has won the last eight meetings, including a 3-2 overtime win on the road in the most recent matchup on March 7, 2020.
New York Islanders Look to Take Next StepNew York rode their defense most of last season and it carried them to the postseason. Once the Islanders were there, they stifled the Penguins and Bruins in the first two rounds before taking the Lightning to the limit in the conference finals. The team looks to take the next step forward this season as they try to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1983-84. New York was 21st in goals for as they averaged 2.71 goals per contest this season. The Islanders were second in the league in goals-against as they allowed 2.23 goals a night. New York stood 20th with the man advantage as they converted 18.8% of their power-play chances last season. The Islanders were 6th in the league in penalty killing as they successfully navigated 83.7% of their shorthanded situations.
Greene leaves it for Lee and BOOM. 1-0 good guys. pic.twitter.com/gca1y04IqV— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) October 9, 2021
As it stands, the Islanders, who have been in the conference finals two years in a row, it’s pretty much status quo. New York re-signed Adam Pelech to an eight-year deal while also retaining Anthony Beauvillier, Otto Koivula, Ilya Sorokin, Cole Bardreau, Casey Cizikas, Kyle Palmieri and Cory Schneider. Zdeno Chara, who the team drafted way back in 1996, signed a one-year deal with the team. The only real losses the team sustained were Josh Ho Sang (Toronto), Jordan Eberle, who went to the Kraken, and Travis Zajac, who retired. Mathew Barzal (17 goals, 28 assists) was the team’s leading scorer and he’ll be helped by a deep group of talented forwards. Josh Bailey (eight goals, 27 assists), Brock Nelson (18 goals, 15 assists), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (14 goals, 14 assists) and Beauvillier (15 goals, 13 assists) all will be looked at to put the puck in the net. With Semyon Varlamov on IR, Ilya Sorokin, who was 13-6-3 with a 2.17 GAA, a .918 save % and three shutouts in 22 games last season, will get the start in goal here.
Carolina Hurricanes Seeking to Start Season on Positive NoteCarolina put together a stellar regular season in 2020/21 as they earned the division crown for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in the 2005/06 season. The Hurricanes managed to dispatch Nashville in the opening round of the playoffs before running into the buzzsaw that was Tampa Bay in the division finals. Carolina finished last season 11th in the league in scoring with 3.13 goals per game. The Hurricanes were tied for 4th in goals against as they allowed 2.39 goals a night. Carolina was 2nd in the league in power-play success as they cashed in on 25.6 % of their chances with the man advantage on the year. The Hurricanes stood 3rd in the league in penalty killing as they successfully got through 85.2% of their shorthanded situations last season.
Here's every Sebastian Aho goal from last season for your enjoyment pic.twitter.com/To5PJTjq0R— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) October 11, 2021
There are some new faces on the Hurricanes this season as some moves were made in free agency. In for the Hurricanes are goaltenders Antti Raanta and Frederik Andersen along with Tony DeAngelo, Ian Cole, Derek Stepan, Josh Leivo and Brendan Smith. Carolina inked Andrei Svechnikov to an eight-year deal while getting Jesperi Kotkaniemi on an offer sheet after Montreal declined to match the offer. Gone from last year’s team are Jonathan Bernier (New Jersey), Antoine Bibeau (Seattle), Jani Hakanpaa (Dallas), Dougie Hamilton (New Jersey), Brock McGinn (Pittsburgh), Petr Mrazek (Toronto), Cedric Paquette (Montreal), James Reimer (San Jose), Roland McKeown (Colorado) and Sheldon Rempal (Vancouver), who left in the offseason. The core nucleus of Sebastian Aho (24 goals, 33 assists), Vincent Trocheck (17 goals, 26 assists), Svechnikov (15 goals, 27 assists), Martin Necas (14 goals, 27 assists), Jordan Staal (16 goals, 22 assists) and Nino Neiderreiter (20 goals, 14 assists) provide plenty of scoring depth. Frederik Andersen, who went 13-8-3 with a 2.96 GAA and an .895 save % in 24 games with the Maple Leafs last season, is expected to get the call between the pipes here.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
We’re looking at a real clash of styles in this contest. Carolina loves to play end-to-end hockey and try to force opposing teams to keep up with them. New York stifles teams in their own end of the ice and makes life miserable for them when it comes to trying to light the lamp. While the Hurricanes have plenty of offensive talent, there is a massive overhaul of pieces from last season’s team. It can take some time for chemistry to come together and get the team up to speed as a cohesive unit. New York has most of the key personnel from last season and Sorokin is more than capable of doing the job in net. Give the edge to the Islanders in this contest as they steal one on the road.
Full-Game Total Pick
The Islanders finished last season 11-13-4 on the road. New York was outscored by 13 goals in their road games and averaged only two goals per contest as the visiting team in 2020/21. The Islanders had an average total of just 4.46 goals per game as the road team last season, a massive decline from their full-season average total of 4.96 goals per game overall. Carolina went a sparkling 20-3-5 at home with a +38 goal differential in those contests. The Hurricanes had an average of 5.52 goals per game overall last season. At home, that number dropped to 5.36 goals per game. Look for this one to wind up as a defensive struggle that falls short of the mark.