The Hurricanes and Islanders play Game 2 of their first round series Wednesday at 7 p.m. at PNC Arena, and Carolina is looking to take a commanding 2-0 lead after winning the series opener 2-1 on Monday.
Coach Rod Brind’Amour will ice the same lineup for Game 2, including starting Antti Raanta in goal.
1. Home ice hasn’t been a huge factor at the start of the 2023 NHL Playoffs, with road teams winning six of eight Game 1s across the league. That included the top four seeds in the Western Conference losing on the postseason’s first two nights.
The Bruins, who play their Game 2 Wednesday as well, won their series opener against the Panthers, and Carolina was the only other team to hold serve.
So does home ice matter anymore?
“I don’t make a lot of that either way,” Brind’Amour said before Wednesday’s game. “We’ve been a pretty good home team, just in general, for many years. You say, ‘Why did the road teams win?’ I think there’s just a parity. Everybody’s so good now.
“You do have a home-court advantage, for sure, with the crowd. I think there’s a little more juice that can be given to your team. But I don’t know that it’s that big a deal anymore because everybody’s so good.”
That doesn’t change the fact that the Hurricanes have won eight of their last nine home playoff games dating back to the start of last postseason. Since Brind’Amour became coach, Carolina is 18-8 at home in the playoffs and 7-16 on the road.
2. The Islanders don’t seem to view Wednesday’s Game 2 as a must-win.
When asked Wednesday if stealing one of two on the road to start the series was important, New York center Brock Nelson kind of shrugged off the question.
“I don’t think we’re too worried about it, what’s (going on) around the league,” he said of road teams picking up wins. “For us, it’s really one game at a time. This is our main focus right now, to take this one here.”
Islanders coach Lane Lambert didn’t seem to want to change anything — other than some tweaks to New York’s special teams — following Game 1.
“We’d like to think that we’re hard to play against, we have an identity, and we’ll stick with that,” he said.
3. A lot of Carolina’s success at home is because of Jordan Staal and his linemates Jesper Fast and Jordan Martinook.
In Monday’s Game 1, the Hurricanes’ shutdown line was glued to New York’s top line of Bo Horvat centering Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee.
Nearly all of the 11:46 the Horvat line played at 5-on-5 in Game 1 was against the trio of Martinook, Staal and Fast, and they were limited to five shots on goal and two high-danger chances when head-to-head, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
There’s not much Lambert can do on the road to get a more favorable matchup for his top line.
“They want to do that, and it’s not easy,” he said of Carolina’s line matching. “At the end of the day, the players that we put out have to outplay the players that they put out. That’s just the bottom line.”
4. It’s no surprise that Raanta will make his second straight start in net. While he didn’t necessarily outplay Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin in Game 1 — Sorokin was spectacular — he did enough to get the win and earn the Game 2 start.
He’s also been nearly unbeatable at home.
Raanta was 11-0-1 with a .916 save percentage, 2.06 goals-against average and three shutouts in 12 appearances at PNC Arena in the regular season. Since joining the Hurricanes last season, he’s a combined 28-2-2 with a .930 save percentage, 1.85 goals-against average and six shutouts at home in both the regular season and playoffs. Sixteen of his 20 career shutouts have come on home ice with the Hurricanes, Coyotes, Rangers and Blackhawks.
That includes a 2-0 shutout win in Game 2 of last year’s second round series against the Rangers. He also outdueled a top goalie, Igor Shesterkin, in Game 1 of that series. The score of that game? Carolina 2, New York 1 — the same as Monday’s Game 1.
5. Martin Necas had three goals and eight assists in the final 16 games of the season (.688 points per game) after having 60 points in the first 66 games of the year (.909 points per game). The dip in production coincided with Andrei Svechnikov’s season-ending knee injury.
Just three of those points came on the power play as Carolina struggled to score with the man advantage down the stretch.
But Necas assisted on both of Carolina’s power play goals in Game 1, a relief both for the struggling unit and Necas himself.
“It’s always nice,” Necas said of starting the postseason on the right foot. “The main thing is that we won the game. I feel like in the postseason, in playoffs, special teams matter a lot. It’s good to get started with two power play goals there, and our PK was really solid.
“Five-on-five I think we can do a little better job, we can get a little better. But it’s playoffs — every game’s tight. Rants played a really good game and we’re pumped to be back on the ice tonight.”