The fact veteran defenseman Andy Greene was a healthy scratch in Game 1 of the Islanders’ best-of-five play-in series against the Panthers says a lot about the team’s depth on defense.
Greene, acquired in a trade from the Devils in February, made his series debut Tuesday after Johnny Boychuk was deemed unfit to play following a late and high hit in the second period Saturday.
“Andy is a real true pro,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said on a Zoom call following the 4-2 win over the Panthers on Tuesday. “When we acquired him, we acquired him to play big minutes and that was a very difficult decision not to start him in Game 1. I felt strongly, when it was all set and done, that the traditional Islanders get the first crack at it. Andy came in and is now an Islander, when Johnny went down it’s a great replacement.”
Playing on the right side of Nick Leddy on Tuesday, Greene looked like a defenseman with 50 playoff games under his belt. He earned a secondary assist after pinching on the right side of the ice to send the puck back in to Tom Kuhnhackl, who dished it to Matt Martin for Islanders’ first tally of the night at 6:12 of the second.
“It’s a read I had there, I felt like we had good coverage over behind me and got a good stick on it, obviously they did the rest,” he said. “It’s always nice when you can come in and contribute whether it’s, not necessarily in points but for me, it’s on the PK and being a calming presence out there.”
Trotz opted to roll with four left-handed defenseman (Greene, Leddy, Adam Pelech and Devon Toews) and two righties (Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield). It was Greene who was challenged with skating on the right side, something he said he hadn’t done in a while.
“I have played it, but it’s been quite a few years,” the 37-year-old Greene said. “With playing on your offside there, it’s really important to make sure you’re in good position, you know what you’re doing with the puck and you’re always constantly shoulder checking because obviously you’ve got that blind side there to your right.
“Been in all these situations before, over my career I was a healthy scratch in the playoffs so I know what to expect when this happens.”
Trotz had emphasized just how important the Islanders’ special teams were going to be against the Panthers, and that proved to be the case early in Game 2.
The Islanders went 2-for-7 with the man-advantage Tuesday afternoon, bringing the team’s total power-play goals this series to three following Anthony Beauvillier’s game-deciding power-play goal in Saturday’s win.
“What you’re finding is our power play is getting a little bit of confidence, they’re trusting that they don’t have to be as fancy,” Trotz said.
The Panthers were called for eight total penalties, including a 10-minute game misconduct to Brian Boyle for getting into it with Scott Mayfield, who only received a two-minute roughing penalty for the kerfuffle. But being on the penalty kill so much tired the Panthers, who only had four man-advantage opportunities.
“I think when it comes to the playoffs, special teams is so key,” Pulock said. “They got a pretty lethal power play over there and we as a power play got to try and get ourselves a goal when we can or just get some momentum. Obviously tonight some big goals and I think even when we didn’t score we were able to get some momentum and take some control over.”
Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson was fined $2,500 for high-sticking Brock Nelson at 6:18 of the first period, the league announced following the game. It was called a double minor and put Matheson in the box for four minutes. Just over nine minutes later, Matheson was penalized again for tripping Josh Bailey.