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Coaches Room

Islanders, Hurricanes face different challenges in Game 1

Nachbaur says New York must start fast, Carolina needs to refocus

by Don Nachbaur / Special to NHL.com

The Coaches Room is a regular feature throughout the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by one of four former NHL coaches and assistants who will turn their critical gaze to the game and explain it through the lens of a teacher. David Marcoux, Paul MacLean, Don Nachbaur and Gord Murphy will take turns providing insight.

In this edition, Don Nachbaur, a former assistant with the Los Angeles Kings, looks ahead to the Eastern Conference Second Round between the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes.

The start of the Eastern Conference Second Round between the New York Islanders and the Carolina Hurricanes at Barclays Center on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS) will be interesting to watch because the teams are entering the best-of-7 series from contrasting scenarios.

 

[RELATED: Complete Islanders vs. Hurricanes series coverage]

 

The Islanders have been sitting and waiting since completing a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round on April 16. The Hurricanes are coming off the emotional high of a 4-3 double-overtime win in Game 7 of their first-round series against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.

Each coach will have to manage those situations to get their teams ready for Game 1.

Islanders coach Barry Trotz has been nailing it from the quotes I've been reading. He's talked about their practice habits, liking their tempo and sharpness. Practice habits lead to the way you play in games and Barry will not allow things to slip despite the inactivity.

In the past, Trotz has coached through many extended waits in series, where he must maintain the balance between rest and remaining sharp through practice. His experience will help, but it is impossible to emulate the compete of the game or the emotions that go along with it in practice.  

A key for the Islanders in Game 1 will be getting off to a quick start, taking advantage of their rested legs and testing the resolve of the Hurricanes to go through another tough series. Working through the first period will shake off any rust they built up over the break and lead them a long way in Game 1.

For the Hurricanes, it will be more about the mental side of getting back to the grind. They're coming off an emotional and physical series with the Capitals with a quick turnaround before beginning another one. 

They do not have time to enjoy defeating the reigning Stanley Cup Champions nor do they have time to heal bumps, bruises or injuries. Coach Rod Brind'Amour's early challenge will be resetting his team's focus in limited time.

The continued rhythm from playing every other day will help the Hurricanes keep their fluidity while the Islanders will have to find a way to get started again after going nine days without playing a game. Being rested will work in New York's favor if it's a long series, but Carolina will have the advantage of being in the groove of playoff hockey from the get-go.  

That said, we do not know the Hurricanes' state of health without sufficient recovery time. 

Video: Islanders, Hurricanes set to clash in Second Round

Each team reflects its coach's attitude and work ethic. Like Brind'Amour said after Game 7 against the Capitals, the Hurricanes never quit. There were moments in Game 7 the Hurricanes could have been down and out. After falling behind 2-0 and 3-1, they kept clawing back without any surrender. 

I see the same traits in Trotz's Islanders. They work, and they believe. They do not take a back seat as evidenced by their handling of a veteran Pittsburgh team.  

Both teams have excellent leadership and a veteran presence with depth players who have consistently provided solid contributions.  

The key in this series will be getting better each game. The Hurricanes' game got stronger as the series against the Capitals progressed. They learned from mistakes and their belief strengthened while knocking off the defending Stanley Cup champions. 

The Islanders demonstrated similar intangibles while dismantling the Penguins in four straight games. That's no easy task against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and company. Both teams are coming in mentally high and confident, but make no mistake, they will bring their work boots. 

This series promises to be a good one.

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