The Islanders are back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2016. We’re all excited to kick things off on Wednesday night, but while we wait for the Coliseum to explode, let’s take a look at the matchup between the Isles and Penguins.
Isles: The Islanders have been inconsistent on offense this season. At times, the forward group has looked very strong and has done a good job at score goals at a consistent rate. Other times, they were shutout in three of five games. Obviously, in order for the Isles to be successful, they must find a way to score more than one or two goals per game. Recently, the Isles have looked better offensively and forwards like Jordan Eberle, Valtteri Filppula, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and others have been trending in the right direction. Hopefully, the Isles will be able to score at a consistent rate in this series.
Penguins: It’s no secret that the Penguins have a very solid and deep offense, led by Sidney Crosby, who has owned the Islanders over the years. Add Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and others to the mix and they are clearly a dangerous group. Similar to the Islanders, the Penguins like to roll all four lines, and will look to get secondary scoring from guys like Bryan Rust and Matt Cullen.
Isles: Worst to first. The Islanders went from allowing the most goals in the entire NHL last season to allowing the fewest this season. That is a tremendous accomplishment, and should not be taken lightly, especially due to the fact that the personnel on defense did not really change. Barry Trotz has put an effective system in place and the Isles have turned into one of the best defensive teams in the league. Guys like Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield have taken major jumps and have taken on much bigger roles. Add Devon Toews and Nick Leddy’s speed and puck carrying abilities to the group, and the Isles have an extremely versatile group. Should anyone get hurt, the Isles have solid depth with Thomas Hickey, Luca Sbisa, and Dennis Seidenberg all expected to start the playoffs in the press box.
Penguins: The Penguins have not gotten the most consistent play out of their defenseman this season, and with Kris Letang just returning to the lineup, he is likely not back to 100%. The Penguins will need guys like Olli Matta and Jack Johnson to step up in order to be successful.
Isles: Perhaps the biggest storyline surrounding the Isles heading into Game 1 is who will start in net. Normally when this is a question, it is a bad thing. That is not the case for the Isles, who have gotten excellent play from both Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner, who led the Isles to their first Jennings Trophy since the 1982-83 season.
Penguins: Matt Murray has had to deal with injuries throughout his career, including this season, but he still has a lot of playoff experience, including two rings to show for it. Matt Murray will need to be on his game, as he usually is in the Playoffs, in order for the Penguins to be successful in this series.
Obviously, it’s hard to not be biased in this category. Although this will be an extremely tough series for the Isles against a Pittsburgh team with a great deal of playoff experience, it’ll be hard for me to pick against them, as they’ve proved people wrong (including myself) this entire season. I have a feeling that this series will go the distance to Game 7, and I’m sorry, but the Penguins have little chance at Fort Neverlose in a Game 7.
Isles in seven games.