The Wraparound: Islanders look to keep their run going

4 Comments

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

Well, here we go again.

A year after forcing off in the Stanley Cup Semifinals (or, Eastern Conference Final that time), the Islanders and Lightning have another chance to battle for a Stanley Cup Final berth.

Like they’ve been the entire playoffs, the Islanders are the underdog. For the first time, though, the Lightning have home ice.

Home ice, though, hasn’t mattered a ton these playoffs; both of these teams won their series as the lower seed. The Islanders won twice in Boston, and the Lightning clinched in Raleigh.

In some ways, they’re similar like that. In others, they are near opposite squads.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The odds never seem to like the Islanders, and yet, here they are. They’re a team that has likely the strongest cemented identity of all the teams remaining. They play the same style no matter who they are facing.

The Lightning are far different than the other teams the Isles have played this postseason, and the biggest difference might be in net. Tristan Jarry was not good for the Penguins. The Bruins’ Tuukka Rask was playing hurt. Meanwhile, Andrei Vasilevskiy is playing like the best goaltender in the world.

The Islanders biggest weakness is scoring. That hasn’t been an issue these playoffs, as they lit up the Penguins and had no problem activating their power play against Boston. Against a deeper — and healthy — defense and a better goalie, though, it might be a different story.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 schedule, TV info]

The Islanders have been pretty good at shutting down top offensive players in their previous series; Sidney Crosby didn’t light anything up, and while Brad Marchand played really well, the general Bruins offense didn’t keep pace.

Tampa Bay has plenty of offensive big guns. Nikita Kucherov didn’t have any rust after missing the entire season, for one. Their depth has also been stellar, with guys like Ross Colton actually contributing.

Even if the Islanders defense — led by the top pair of Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech — shuts down the Lightning, again, it’s the offense to worry about. Mathew Barzal had a strong showing against the Bruins, but had a slow start with the Penguins. For the Islanders to win this series, they need Bruins-series Barzal; and Kyle Palmieri, too.

The Islanders are never the favorite. At this point, maybe that’s how they like it. Perhaps its unfair they haven’t been a favorite, either. There’s no reality though where people don’t fully expect the Lightning to go back to the Stanley Cup Final, so the Islanders will have to do what they do best to get there– beat the odds.

SUNDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 1: Islanders at Lightning, 3 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)

MONDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 1: Canadiens at Golden Knights, 9 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

austonmatthews
Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

caufield surgery
David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

matty beniers
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.