The NHL becomes the third pro sports team in a span of 10 days to return to action after the COVID-19 pandemic hit North America, affecting all sports teams of each kind, including the whole world. And with the return, both New York hockey teams highlight day 1 of the return with different results.
The New York Rangers played the first game of the Qualifying Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as an 11 seed, facing off against 5th-seed Carolina Hurricanes, who they swept during the regular season. Entering 2020, the Rangers started to hit a breakthrough by accomplishing a record that kept them in playoff contention, and thanks to that, the Rangers were the second-to-last team to achieve a playoff berth for the Eastern Conference Playoffs. However, in the first minute, Jacob Slavin got the Hurricanes on the board first and then Sebastian Aho gave Carolina a 2-0 lead halfway through the second period. Despite the Rangers keeping it close thanks to Mika Zibanejad and Marc Staal, Henrik Lundqvist could not save 3 shots that led to 3-2 win for the Hurricanes as they take a 1-0 lead in the Best-of-5 round over the Rangers.
The Rangers went 4-0 against the Carolina Hurricanes during the regular season before it ended abruptly. However, the Hurricanes managed to learn from their mistakes over the past season and find their way to achieve their first win over the Rangers this season as they hope to make another run after upsetting the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders in last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs before falling to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Championship. Regardless, the winner of the NYR-CAR series will face 4-seed Philadelphia Flyers.
However, for the New York team residing in Long Island, the Islanders, who are the 7-seed in the playoffs, returned to action with a more healthier roster than they had when the NHL went on hiatus. Pivotal players like defenseman Adam Pelech and centre Casey Cizikas, who suffered injuries during early 2020 and was ruled out for the rest of the season, was able to come back in the middle of the summer to provide the Islanders with a huge boost that led to a 2-1 win in Game 1 against the Florida Panthers thanks to Jean-Gabriel Pagueau and Anthony Beauvillier’s (PPG) goal and Semyon Varlamov going 27 for 28 on save attempts.
This was the first postseason meeting between the Islanders and Panthers since New York defeated Florida 4-2 in the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, breaking the Islanders 23-year streak without a playoff series win after a double overtime goal by former Islander John Tavares. In the regular season, the Islanders swept the Panthers 3-0 and that was before the injury bug began to hit the Islanders. Thanks to the players that returned for them that were injured after their last regular-season meeting against Florida, the Islanders got themselves back into the form that impressed a lot of people and showed dominance over the Panthers as New York looks to make noise with their second-straight playoff appearance after sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins last year in Round 1 before being swept by Carolina in Round 2 with the winner of NYI-FLA facing 2-seed Tampa Bay Lightning.
Both teams will return to action after playing Game 1 against their respective teams at the beginning of next week at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto as the Rangers, lead by Coach David Quinn, will look to even the series when they face the Hurricanes again in Game 2 on Monday at noon. For the Islanders, they will look to extend their series lead over the Panthers when they face Florida again on Tuesday at noon.