As the NHL regular season comes to a close we finally get to know who will be participating in the playoffs and who has been eliminated. As of right now, all the playoff series have not been finalized but we do know that the New York Islanders vs Pittsburgh Penguins will be a first-round matchup.
Both teams have battled it out in the most competitive division in hockey: the Atlantic Division. The Penguins have found themselves at the top of the division as they accumulated 77 points in 56 games. The Islanders found themselves finishing fourth in the division since they have 71 points. Along with being two of the most competitive teams in the league, they are also two of the best teams when they play on home ice. Their close finish in the standings and strong play on home ice should lead to a highly competitive and entertaining first series.
How Do the New York Islanders vs Pittsburgh Penguins Matchup?
The New York Islanders play a different style of hockey than the Pittsburgh Penguins. Under the watchful eye of head coach Barry Trotz, the Islanders have employed a defensive strategy that puts more focus on not allowing good scoring chances and allowing goaltender Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin to see the puck to make saves. It will be interesting to see how the coaches change their systems as the New York Islanders vs Pittsburgh Penguins series unfolds.
The Penguins play an almost entirely different style as they look to use the speedy forwards that they possess to advance the puck into the offensive zone where they will set up shop and try to get as many quality shots off as possible. The clash of the two teams and different styles has seemed to have fared the Penguins much better as they won five of the six regular-season matchups. Routinely scoring three or more goals the Penguins seemed to have found the key to success to beat the Islanders and should continue playing this same style when the playoffs begin.
Trade Deadline Acquisitions Paying Off
This season at the trade deadline general managers Lou Lamoriello and Ron Hextall made some surprising acquisitions that baffled lots of hockey fans. Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello made the first real splash at the trade deadline by acquiring Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from a fellow Atlantic division team in the New Jersey Devils.
Since being acquired by the Islanders, Palmieri has seemingly lost his scoring touch as he has just four points in 17 games with his new club. So far Palmieri’s lack of production could have Islanders fans worried but they should not fret because Palmieri still has the ability to score 30 goals in a traditional season showing that when he is on his game he can be a game-breaking talent that can help the Islanders Stanley cup aspirations into a reality.
The other piece the Islanders acquired in the trade is Travis Zajac. If you can believe it Zajac has been equally effective in the point-producing department as Palmieri. In 13 games with his new team, he only has a single goal and a single assist. The 1000 game veteran has never been relied upon for scoring so Islanders fans don’t worry about his lack of scoring. His real value comes on the defensive end of the ice as he is a fantastic two-way center that should be used to attempt to shut down the Penguins’ best players.
Hextall didn’t want to be left out of the fun so he decided to make his first significant trade deadline acquisition since taking over for Jim Rutherford as Pittsburgh Penguins general manager. He traded a sixth-round pick to the Los Angeles Kings for veteran Jeff Carter. Carter, a former game-breaking talent when he played for the Philadelphia Flyers and his early days with the Los Angeles Kings had seemingly lost his point-producing talents.
The trade baffled many people around the league but so far it has definitely worked out for the Penguins. In just 14 games with the Penguins, Carter has magically found his scoring touch as he has scored nine goals and added two more assists. This shocking rise in productivity has helped solidify the Penguins forward group and will make them tough to knock out of the playoffs.
New York Islanders vs Pittsburgh Penguins Players To Keep an Eye On
The New York Islanders vs Pittsburgh Penguins rosters both possess some real talent that will be instrumental in attempting to turn the series in their teams’ favor. Both teams have some star forwards and rockstar goalies that will cause problems and frustrate the opposing team.
Despite playing in a system that puts more emphasis on playing strong team defense rather than scoring goals, the star player for the Islanders has managed to be a major point producer for his club. This season Mat Barzal scored 17 goals and added 28 assists to lead his team in scoring with 45 total points. On numerous occasions, the 23-year-old center has shown off his unbelievable skills and speed to score highlight-reel goals that make the defenders and goalies look silly. After signing a lucrative three-year contract extension back in January both Barzal and the New York Islanders vs New York Islanders series will be a challenging series to start of the playoffs for the 23-year-old.
This season has been quite strange for the Islanders starting goalie Varlamov. For starters, he was very streaky this season. During the first month of the season, he was head and shoulders above the competition in the race for the Vezina trophy. As the season progressed he went through some rough patches which dropped his numbers back towards the rest of the league. Since then his play has improved and he even held a shutout streak of 213 minutes and 56 seconds. That is the equivalent of about three and a half games.
The second interesting thing going on this season was how the Islanders decided to split the crease with budding superstar Sorokin and the established veteran Varlamov. Normally Varlamov would have gotten a greater percentage of starts but the Islanders wanted to integrate Sorokin into their lineup more and more to try and transition him to a bigger role in the net. This decision led to Varlamov finding himself sitting on the bench with a baseball hat on.
Despite the Islanders seemingly wanting to transition towards the future it should be a foregone conclusion that Varlamov will be the starting goalie come playoff time. With his impressive 2.04 goals-against average and .929 save percentage Islanders, fans and coaches alike should not have to worry about making the wrong decision in the net.
Already accomplishing so much in his illustrious career Sidney Crosby has nothing left to prove to the doubters but he has not given up and is competing to win the fourth Stanley cup of his 16 NHL seasons. Sid the Kid, the former first overall pick has dominated the league for the past 10 years or so and this year has been no different.
In the shortened regular season he surpassed the 1000 NHL games plateau, scored at a point per, and led his team to a first-place finish in the Atlantic Division. The captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins played in 55 games this past regular season and scored 24 goals to go along with his 38 assists. His astounding 62 points were the ninth-best in the league. Of those 62 points, seven of them came against the Islanders. His ability to score against the Islanders combined with his unbelievable talent should strike fear into Islanders fans hearts as well as get Penguins fans excited about the series.
After becoming an all-star last season and being handed the reins of the starting goalie position of the Penguins, Tristan Jarry has stepped and put together a very respectable season. Finishing with a .909 save percentage and 2.75 goals-against average Jarry will be sure to be on his A-game against the Islanders in the first round. The New York Islanders vs Pittsburgh Penguins will be a difficult matchup for Jarry to prove himself as a starting goaltender in the NHL.
The New York Islanders vs Pittsburgh Penguins will be an interesting series. If the two teams can get scoring from more than just their star players, they can both be favorites to win the Stanley Cup. The Penguins have had more playoff success recently than the Islanders.
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