New York Islanders (45-27-10) at Florida Panthers (47-26-9)
|Date & Time||Thursday April 14, 2016, 8:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Florida Panthers -135 / New York Islanders +115 --- Over/Under: 5
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The New York Islanders are hoping a late season swan dive doesn’t carry over into the playoffs as they kick off their Eastern Conference series with the Florida Panthers.
The New York Islanders struggled down the stretch of the regular season and while some see it as a play to avoid the Metro division bracket and take on a less overwhelming Atlantic group they face off against a tough Panthers side in the first round. The Isles are led of course by John Tavares and while they have some other pieces in place they will live and die by how much Tavares can do and in his short playoff tenure, while performing decently well personally, it hasn’t carried over into a series victory. The Islanders head into this series coming off a 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers which cemented them behind the Rangers in the Metro and locked into the first wild card spot and while you can never read someone’s intentions there is certainly speculation that they threw the game to avoid a show down with the Penguins and/or Capitals.
The Panthers meanwhile have been cruising along in the mediocre Atlantic division but were the best of the bunch for a reason as they have some great pieces in place, both young and old, and pose a serious threat to emerge out of the Atlantic bracket. Florida has a great young core led by Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad, Aleks Barkov, and Nic Bjugstad and with Jaromir Jagr continuing to defy the odds they certainly look the part of a team that could go on a decent run in the Eastern Conference. Florida also has a great goaltender in Roberto Luongo who has been to a Stanley Cup final and has the potential to steal a series or two along the way. I like the Cats to start off on the right foot in a series that could go the distance but at the very least they defend home ice for the first game.