NHL Playoffs 2023 Series Preview: Hurricanes vs. Islanders

I’m expecting a fantastic defensive battle for this first round series between the Metro Division leading Carolina Hurricanes and the first Wild Card in the East New York Islanders. In the four games between these divisional teams, the Canes went 3-1, with the Isles winning the first game 6-2 in Carolina on October 28th and the Hurricanes winning the next three, winning a 3-0 shutout on Long Island on December 10th, 5-2 on the road again on January 21st, and then 2-1 at home on April 2nd.

The Carolina Hurricanes had a fantastic regular season, winning the Metropolitan Division on the last day of the regular season finishing a point ahead of the Devils with a 52-21-9 record. Despite ending the regular season with two wins in a row to win the division, they were on a slight slump finishing the season, with five wins in their last eleven games.

The Hurricanes have been good on both ends of the ice. They’ve scored an average of 3.2 goals per game, the 15th-most in the NHL on an average of 34.8 shots per game. They’ve generated the fifth-most expected goals (3.58 per game) and the third-most high-danger shots in the league. Carolina has scored on 19.8% of their power play chances. They are led in scoring by Martin Necas (71 points, 43 assists) and Sebastian Aho (36 goals). The Canes will be without two of their best players though, who are out for the rest of this season with injury in Andrei Svechnikov and Max Pacioretty.

Carolina has allowed just the second-fewest goals in the NHL, an average of only 2.55 goals per game on an average of 26 shots allowed per game. They’ve given up the fewest expected goals (2.56 per game) and the fewest high-danger shots. The Canes have the second-best penalty kill in the NHL, killing off 84.4% of their penalties. 

Freddy Andersen’s been good this season in goal with a 21-11–1 record, a 2.48 GAA, a .903 save percentage, and a shutout.

The New York Islanders season has seen its up and downs, but they’ve had a successful year and come into the playoffs in the first Wild Card spot in the East with a 42-31-9 record, a point ahead of the Panthers for seeding and just two points ahead of the Sabres and Penguins.

The Islanders have really struggled offensively this season. They’ve scored an average of just 2.95 goals per game, the eleventh-fewest in the NHL, on an average of 30.8 shots per game. They’ve generated the 13th-fewest expected goals (3.11 per game) and the 13th-most high-danger shots in the league. The Isles have struggled on the power play, ranking third-worst in the NHL, scoring on just 15.8% of their chances. Brock Nelson leads them in scoring with 75 points, 36 goals, and 39 assists. They’ll get back their superstar forward Mathew Barzal for the playoffs.

To make up for their poor offensive play, the Isles have been fantastic defensively. They’ve allowed the fifth-fewest goals in the NHL, allowing an average of 2.65 goals per game on an average of 31 shots allowed per game. They’ve given up the 16th-fewest expected goals (3.11 per game) and the eleventh-most high-danger shots. The Islanders have killed off 82.2% of their penalties, the ninth-best in the NHL. Ilya Sorokin is a Vezina candidate this season and he’s the best player on this Isles roster. This season Sorokin has a 31-22–7 record with a 2.34 GAA, a .924 save percentage, and six shutouts.

From earlier this season, I have a future on the Hurricanes to win the Stanley Cup (along with the other two top teams in the Metro), essentially as a hedge for the Bruins for the Eastern Conference Finals. I don’t really see the Canes actually winning the Cup but I like the hedge equity on them, and I definitely don’t see the Islanders winning it either. I’ll let that future ride on this series.

That being said, I expect this to be a pretty solid, competitive series. I’d still expect Carolina to win this series in six or seven games with a pretty big offensive edge but these teams should match up pretty evenly and grind out low-scoring games. I don’t see any value in the Canes to win the series at -200, and actually see some value in the Isles to advance at +170 or even their series +1.5 line at -139, but still don’t think it’s worth betting either side of this series. The play I like on this series is for it to go at least six games, which I’ll take for 1.5 units.

What I’ll really be targeting in this series is unders with two top-five defenses going at it. I’ll start that off with a unit on the under tonight in Game 1. I also expect the Hurricanes to win Game 1 at home, which I’ll take for a unit.


1.5u Carolina Hurricanes – Stanley Cup Champions (+1300)

Series Bets

1.5u Hurricanes/Islanders over 5.5 games (-162)

Game 1 Bets

1u Hurricanes ML (-170)

1u Hurricanes under 5.5 (-130)

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