Despite making quick work of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the New York Islanders are taking a long-term approach to their second opponent.
Jordan Staal's overtime goal helped the Carolina Hurricanes grab an early series lead, but the Islanders remain focused on the bigger picture and are planting seeds that will be advantageous as the series goes on.
"When we put the puck down low and are hard on their defense, we kind of think of it as an investment," fourth-line forward Matt Martin said after the 1-0 loss in Game 1. "Over the course of the series, you keep wearing them down."
Playing their first game of the postseason at Barclays Center in Brooklyn - after the first series was at Nassau Coliseum - the Islanders finished each check and established a physical presence from the moment the puck was dropped.
New York generated more than enough offense to come away with a victory, but failed to capitalize on their opportunities. Josh Bailey could not solve Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek on a breakaway, Brock Nelson whiffed on two one-timers, and the Islanders missed on four power-play chances.
While they couldn't find the back of the net, it didn't take long for the Islanders to get back to their system after a nine-day hiatus. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes are coming off a seven-game hard fought series against the Washington Capitals who also play punishing style of hockey. New York dictated the play for long stretches and has already started to frustrate Carolina.
"We know how these guys play and it's kind of an annoying style to play against," Hurricanes defenseman Calvin de Haan told reporters. "They can grind with the best of them."
The Islanders have played this style throughout the regular season, but when you play an opponent time and time again in the midst of an emotional series, it has an even bigger impact. Just ask Sidney Crosby.
"It's a good word," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said after being informed of de Haan's statement. "It's because they are good, they do it right. It's hard. That's this time of year, and that's what playoff hockey is, it's hard. You got to earn every chance, that's how they are coached and why they are successful. We have to buckle down and make us annoying to play against."
The Islanders can lay the foundation to have success in that latter half of the series, but they must remember the postseason moves quickly. That strategy will only work if they maintain the status quo and even up the series before it gets out of hand.
"It's a seven-game series," defenseman Nick Leddy said. "That's one game, we have to put it behind us. We got to come back and grab the momentum next game."