After waiting for more than a week, the Islanders finally found out late Wednesday night that they'll play the Hurricanes -- the Bunch of Jerks -- in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. And because Carolina upset Washington in Game 7 on the road, the first road win by a team in the series, the Isles will get home-ice advantage in the second round, with Game 1 in Brooklyn on Friday night.
Will the well-rested Islanders be rusty Friday night having not played since last Tuesday? Or will they be able to pounce on a Hurricanes squad tired and beat up after a grueling seven-game series?
Let's take a look at how the Islanders and Hurricanes match up heading into the second round of the postseason.
The big question for the Islanders heading into the second round is if their top line can keep it up after a stellar first round. Jordan Eberle gained more leverage in his upcoming contract negotiations with each goal he scored against the Penguins -- four in all, along with two assists in four games. Mathew Barzal had five assists and Anders Lee had a goal and two helpers.
Valtteri Filppula getting healthy in time for the postseason was huge for the Isles, as they didn't have to play someone out of place at third-line center. Filppula had four assists in the opening round. Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson also had a strong first round, and Barry Trotz's decision to go with Tom Kuhnhackl over Michael Dal Colle paid off.
Can they, particularly Eberle, maintain that kind of production against Carolina, the King of Corsi?
The Hurricanes have some legit talent up front. Sebastian Aho (not to be confused with Sebastian Aho of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers) and Teuvo Teravainen are dynamic forwards who can change a game in a flash. Vets like Justin Williams and Jordan Staal helped lead the way in the Canes' first-round victory. Nino Niederreiter, an Islander once upon a time, had a huge impact after joining Carolina from Minnesota midseason. How Trotz deploys the Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck line will be something to watch for early on.
Carolina has a couple of injuries which could impact at least the start of the series. Rookie Andrei Svechnikov hasn't played since getting knocked out by Alex Ovechkin, and Micheal Ferland missed the last four games.
The way Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock thrived in the first round while matched up against Sidney Crosby's line was remarkable. If it's going to be more of the same from those two against the Hurricanes, and if Devon Toews keeps things up, the Isles are going to have a great chance to reach their first conference final in 26 years.
The Isles will be without Johnny Boychuk, who last week was ruled out 3-4 weeks with a presumed leg injury after he blocked a shot in Game 4 against the Penguins. They'll need Thomas Hickey to come in after a long layoff and play capably.
Carolina received significant offensive contributions from its top pair in the first round, with Jaccob Slavin racking up nine assists and Dougie Hamilton notching three goals and three assists. It's a stingy group which features workhorse Justin Faulk and former Islander Calvin de Haan.
Robin Lehner followed up his stellar regular season with a terrific four-game run in the first round in which he allowed just five goals and stopped 130 of 136 shots (.956 save percentage.)
Petr Mrazek did have one shutout during the first round, but he only faced 18 shots in that Game 3 win against Washington, which put six goals past Mrazek in Game 5. He finished the series with an .899 save percentage. The Isles should have the edge in goaltending.
After finishing the regular season in a 3-for-50 slump on the power play, the Isles converted on 2 of 13 man-advantages in the first round, just enough to give them some crucial goals at the right time. Carolina went just 3-for-25 on the power play over seven games against the Capitals.
The Isles did keep the daunting Pittsburgh power play at bay, allowing just one power-play goal on 11 chances. Washington went 6-for-24 against Carolina on the power play. The Canes had the eighth-best penalty kill during the regular season.
Full credit to Rod Brind'Amour, who as a player led Carolina to its first Stanley Cup in 2006 and has led its current turnaround behind the bench. But we'll take Trotz in a chess match. After winning the Cup with Washington last year, he transformed the Islanders into a well-oiled machine fully committed to his system.
It would've been quite fascinating to see how Trotz would've done in a series against the team he won it all with last year. But now the Eastern Conference is wide open, and I think the long layoff will be advantageous to the Isles against a potentially fatigued Carolina team.