Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders First Round Preview
The New York Islanders return to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and draw the best team in the Eastern Conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins. This will be a fun series since both teams hate each other. The Penguins seem to have bad luck when dealing with the Islanders and will be hoping to get out of the first round in one piece.
Let’s break this series down:
Overall Talent – Overall, Pittsburgh has a major advantage, especially if Sidney Crosby returns sooner rather than later. Crosby is going to miss game one but if this series goes more than five games he will be in the lineup and will make a difference. The Islanders do have a superstar in John Tavares, who will receive Hart Trophy votes this year. Otherwise the Islanders are a mix of good but no elite players like Matt Moulson, Brad Boyes, Frans Nielsen etc. They do have some excellent puck movers on the blueline but I think they will have problems with the forecheck, especially the forecheck from Pittsburgh’s bottom six forwards.
Major edge – Pittsburgh
Goaltending – Evgeni Nabokov has been excellent this season and is the best goalie in this series. Marc-Andre Fleury was a disaster in the playoffs last year and needs to find himself if the Penguins want to make a Cup run. I wouldn’t be a surprised if coach Dan Bylsma has a quick hook in case Fleury flounders and Tomas Vokoun is inserted in net.
Edge – New York
Coaching – Dan Bylsma is one of the most well-regarded coaches in the league. Jack Capuano is relatively unknown and is considered a placeholder coach until Doug Weight is ready to take over. The Isles staff has done well to get this team into the playoffs but I can’t give them the edge over Pittsburgh’s success and experience behind the bench.
Edge – Pittsburgh
Specialty Teams – Pittsburgh has a killer power play and ranked 2nd in the league. The Islanders finished tied for 10th in the league and have excellent defencemen to anchor the power play and proven power play performers in Tavares, Boyes etc. Staying out of the box will be a key to this series as both teams were in the bottom 10 in penalty kill percentage.
Slight edge – Pittsburgh
I think the Islanders give the Penguins a series, especially in games 3 and 4 on the Island but the Penguins find a way, re-integrate Crosby in the lineup and win this series in 5 games.