The Wraparound: Expect a better Game 3 from Islanders’ gem Pelech

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.

In hockey and other sports, there are different forms of underrated players.

For a certain subset of casual hockey fans, some players remain suspended in a stasis of being “underrated” so long, they might become overrated. (Did this phenomenon burn the Bruins, and then maybe the Canucks, when it came to Loui Eriksson? Who can say?)

Then, there are the players who still feel genuinely underrated. For now, it looks like Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech sits in that “underrated by almost everyone, except hockey hipsters and/or perma-aggrieved Islanders fans.”

Truly, Pelech may qualify as underrated until he gets more than a faint murmuring of Norris Trophy buzz.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

But, hey, even the best musicians hit the wrong note. For Adam Pelech, some Game 2 blunders might be the equivalent to the wrong hair metal band going “unplugged,” or the Beatles singing out of tune.

The Pelech – Ryan Pulock combination has made beautiful (if subtle) music for the Islanders for some time, yet Game 2 was discordant. Pelech turned the puck over on the Lightning’s first and third goals, as you can see in video form:

Pelech looked especially angry with a failed exit on Jan Rutta‘s goal.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 schedule, TV info]

No, Pelech did not commit the grade of errors that get you planted to the bench. But they were still uncharacteristic mistakes. Pulock pointed out how rare it is to see the Islanders make those smaller errors, though.

“Those are goals you don’t see us give up too much,” Pulock said after Game 1. “We just need to be a little better in our own end.”

Still, the Lightning forced Pelech to make mistakes. That’s especially true on one of the game’s flashpoints, as Pelech sure seemed to cause Brayden Point‘s collision into Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov returned to that contest, but took a heavy hit. (Islanders power play [and eventual goal] or not, that’s not something you’d expect from Pelech.)

So, how will Pelech and the Islanders defense handle Game 3 against the Lightning on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; USA Network / Peacock)? On one hand, Point, Nikita Kucherov, and other top Bolts possess the rare talents and smarts that can make just about any defenseman or system look shabbier than usual. On the other hand, the Islanders will get the benefit of a raucous home crowd, not to mention the option to get matchups they want with the last change.

But, really, the biggest reason to expect better defense in Game 3 is that, simply enough, Pelech and Pulock don’t let the Islanders down very often.

THURSDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 3: Lightning at Islanders, 8 p.m. ET (Series tied 1-1) – USA Network / Peacock (livestream)

FRIDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 3: Canadiens at Golden Knights, 8 p.m. ET (Series tied 1-1) – USA Network / Peacock (livestream)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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