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Five reasons Islanders were eliminated from playoffs

by David Satriano

The New York Islanders started the 2014-15 season as one of the hottest teams in the NHL, but their struggles down the stretch cost them home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals, and Washington won 2-1 in Game 7 at Verizon Center on Monday to eliminate New York.

It was the eighth straight playoff series loss by the Islanders, who last won a series in the Patrick Division Final in 1993, when they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games.

The loss Monday ended the Islanders' 43-year run at Nassau Coliseum. They will play their home games at Barclays Center in Brooklyn beginning next season.

A successful regular season when they had 101 points, their most since 104 in 1983-84, again ended in a first-round loss.

Here are five reasons the Islanders were eliminated:

1. Injuries to defense -- New York was already without Travis Hamonic to start the playoffs after he sustained a knee injury in the next-to-last game of the regular season. But the Islanders also lost Calvin de Haan with an upper-body injury in Game 5 and veteran Lubomir Visnovsky in Game 4 after taking a high hit from Capitals forward Tom Wilson. The loss of those three meant Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Thomas Hickey and Brian Strait each had to absorb more ice time, and the Islanders had to use young, inexperienced defensemen in the series.

Griffin Reinhart, who has played eight regular-season NHL games, none after Dec. 15, looked lost when he made his playoff debut in Game 5, a 5-1 loss.

Scott Mayfield, who has played in five regular-season NHL games (all last season), and Matt Donovan, who played in 12 games and was a healthy scratch for most of the regular season, each played in Games 6 and 7 and were paired together. The two did well -- Washington scored three goals in the final two games -- but the loss of three top-six defensemen was too much for the Islanders to overcome.

2. Not much offense -- After scoring four goals in Game 1 and three goals in Game 2, the Islanders scored eight goals in the final five games, including one in each of the final three losses. The 15 goals in the series (2.14 per game) was well below their regular-season average of 2.99 per game.

Nine Islanders scored at least 10 goals during the regular season, but no one scored more than two in the playoffs. John Tavares had 38 regular-season goals, and Brock Nelson had 22. Each scored twice in seven games. Rookie Anders Lee had 25 regular-season goals but none in the playoffs and was a healthy scratch in Games 6 and 7.

Forwards Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo, Ryan Strome and Cal Clutterbuck each had two goals, and only two other Islanders (Nikolay Kulemin, Frans Nielsen) scored in the series.

In Game 7, New York had 11 shots on goal, three by their forwards.

3. Power-play failure -- New York was the only team of the 16 that made the playoffs that did not score a power-play goal in the first round. They went 0-for-14 in seven games against the Capitals, including 0-for-4 in a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 4 at Nassau Coliseum. A win in that game would have given New York a 3-1 series lead.

The Islanders were 16th in the League on the power play during the regular season (18.7 percent), scoring 50 goals, but they couldn't get anything going in the playoffs. New York's failure with the man-advantage is a reason they scored 15 goals in the series, all by forwards.

"The theme for us all year long, the power play has been there for us," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said after Game 7. "You can't go through a series [without a power-play goal].

4. Lack of playoff experience -- Boychuk and Leddy each has won the Stanley Cup, and goalie Jaroslav Halak has made 30 playoff starts, but most of the rest of the Islanders roster had little to no postseason experience. Thirteen players were on the Islanders in 2013 when they lost in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to the Penguins in six games, but six players (Reinhart, de Haan, Donovan, Lee, Mayfield, Nelson and Strome) made their playoff debuts against the Capitals.

Most of the Capitals' core group has been together for years, and they not only had more playoff experience but had 17 players who had played in a Game 7. The Islanders had seven players, two who did not play Monday (Visnovsky and Tyler Kennedy).

5. Running into hot goalie -- Halak had a 2.30 goals-against average and .926 save percentage, each a good number. But Capitals goalie Braden Holtby was better.

Holtby, who was ill and did not play in Game 2, allowed 10 goals in six games and had a 1.63 GAA and .943 save percentage, better than his regular-season numbers (2.22, .923). After allowing three goals in Game 1, Holtby allowed seven in his next five games. He is second in save percentage and third in GAA in the playoffs.

The Islanders were unable to solve Holtby for most of the series, a big reason they did not advance to the second round.


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