- The NHL has announced that play will resume in late July or early August with a 24-team playoff format
- The New York Islanders will take on the Florida Panthers in one of the first-round playoff series
- The Islanders swept the season series 3-0
The NHL has announced its plans to return in late July or early August, jumping directly into a 24-team playoff with the No. 5 through No. 12 seeds getting started in best-of-five series in the “Qualifying Round”.
One of those matchups will be the Florida Panthers taking on the New York Islanders. Both are extreme long shots to win it all, according to the 2020 Stanley Cup odds, but one team will inevitably reach the Round of 16. The early odds slightly favor the Islanders.
Islanders vs Panthers Series Odds
|New York Islanders||-120|
Odds as of May 27.
Panthers Had Been Slumping Before The Break
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the hiatus might be the Panthers. This is a team that started the year 29-17-5 and was viewed as a surprise contender in the Eastern Conference. However, they entered the break having lost 12 of their last 18 games, so a reset might do them well.
A big issue for them is the play in net as goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has disappointed this season. After posting save percentages of .913 in 2019, .921 in 2018 and .931 in 2017, he’s down at .900 this season, which is barely passable. The Panthers allow the fourth-most goals per game (3.25) and if they can’t improve in that regard, they won’t be in the playoffs for long.
Islanders Had Been In An Even Bigger Slump
If you thought the Panthers were in a funk before the break, check out the Islanders: they had lost 11 of their final 13 games going into the break. Similarly, they were a very respectable team before that as they had been 33-16-6.
It’s really hard to know what to make of this team as they started the year 22-7-2 and were one of the top teams in the East. Since then, they’re just 13-16-8. It’s a stunning turnaround to go from winning 22 of 29 to losing 24 of 37.
It’s mostly the goal-scoring with this team as they averaged 3.00 goals per game in October, 2.77 in November and 3.00 in December. That slipped to 2.64 in January and 2.53 in February. We’ll have to see if they can flip the switch as they were an excellent team early on but were horrible before the break.
What’s The Best Bet?
We don’t really know where this matchup will be played but the one edge here would be Florida if the Panthers could somehow be at home. Even so, the Panthers are one of the league’s worst home teams as they are 17-18-4 at the BB&T Center. However, the Islanders aren’t a great road team at 15-18-4.
The teams did square off three times in the regular season and the Islanders won all three contests. More importantly, they were able to dictate the pace of play as we saw a total of 12 goals in three contests. Florida is one of the highest scoring teams in the league (sixth-best at 3.30 per game), so that’s a good sign for the Isles.
I actually think the break will really help the Isles here. They excelled in the playoffs last season and that experience should be a factor. With their main weakness being offense and the Panthers being a lousy defensive team (26th in save percentage), this should matchup up well for the Isles.
Additional NHL Qualifying Round Coverage:
Let's have fun and keep it civil.