This weekend brings about a whole new type of play for the Islanders. They are going to need to be quicker and more dominant than they have ever been in the postseason. With inconsistencies being their downfall, the Isles are going to have to strive past their faults to take down a prime team such as the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Islanders’ roster has great players no doubt. To name a few, Mathew Barzel, Brock Nelson, and Anthony Beauvillier do a great job of bringing a variety of assets that only add an edge to the team’s play. Not to mention, the two new additions in Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac are two strong veteran players that bring a deep level of understanding of playoff hockey.
Looking towards the upcoming matchup against the Pens, the Isles can not get stuck in any type of a rut, such as the one they went through in the month of April. Some of the players listed above have personally faced long dry spells of no goals or even points from a game, including a couple of unlucky stints this season. In addition, the Isles didn’t do well against Pittsburgh this past season, winning just three of eight games against their division rival. That being said, I would expect this first round tilt to be a back-and-forth matchup.
“They know who we are and we know who they are, so it’s less adjustment for sure,” forward J.G. Pageau said earlier this week.
Pageau knows a thing or two about playing the Pens in the postseason, having been a part of the Senators squad that lost in seven to Pittsburgh in the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals.
“We know there are four good teams and once you get in the playoffs anyone has a chance and I truly believe in our chance to go through those teams,” he added.
Pittsburgh is going to go out onto the ice and play a very aggressive and strategic game. They have elite players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby, who is a known Isles killer both in the regular season and postseason, registered nine points in eight games against the Isles this season. No Islander players had even reached twenty goals this season, whereas the Penguins have three, 20-goal scorers (Crosby, Malkin, Bryan Rust). However, this isn’t necessarily a huge downfall for the Barry Trotz’s skaters.
Time and time again, it has been proven in playoff history that just because a team has the number of another in-season, it doesn’t guarantee anything in a playoff series. We saw it last year in the bubble with the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes. The Rangers slaughtered the Hurricanes all season just to get swept (cough) by them come playoffs.
The Islanders could easily turn their rocky second half into a successful postseason. Something that will set them up for success is spending more time in the offensive zone which and trying to get to Pens netminder Tristan Jarry early and often. The Isles need to bring their heavy style and throw it right at the Penguins skill guys.
Game 1 against Pittsburgh will be crucial because it will tell what we might expect the rest of the series. The Islanders have the structure and determination behind them for sure. If not that, they are definitely battle-tested. And we’ll see Sunday if they can flip the switch in game one.