The New York Islanders are advancing to the second round in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The New York Islanders vs Pittsburgh Penguins series lasted six games and ended in a resounding 5-3 Islanders game six win and series win. The Islanders managed to win two straight games to break the series deadlock and to advance to the second round.
A Surprise in the Crease
Before the New York Islanders Vs Pittsburgh Penguins Series, we predicted that Tristan Jarry and Semyon Varlamov would be the starting goalies for their respective teams. We correctly predicted that Jarry would be the starting goalie but completely wrong about Varlamov. Instead, Ilya Sorokin was the starting goalie for the majority of the series due to Varlamov battling a lingering injury. We also predicted that the goaltending would be excellent from both sides which again was not even close to being correct for one team.
For the Islanders goaltending was not an issue in this series. The combination of Sorokin and Varlamov was enough to shut down the high-power Penguins offense. Varlamov did not start in game one but he did play in games two and three of the series. Despite not winning either game he played fairly well.
In his first appearance, Varlamov faced 45 shots and turned away 43 of them but unfortunately, he and the Islanders lost the game 2-1. Game three was not as good for Varlamov as game two. He saw just 27 shots and he allowed five goals. His poor play in the Islanders’ second loss in a row could have been a factor in the very smart decision to roll with Sorokin for the rest of the series.
The Russian’s rookie sensation made a surprise start in game one in which he helped the Islanders win 4-3 in overtime. In the overtime victory, he stopped 39 of the 42 shots he saw. Sorokin did not see the ice again until game four when again he brought his winning ways to New York. His 29 save effort guided the Islanders to a 4-1 victory in which they tied the series at two games apiece.
Barry Trotz made the right decision to roll with Sorokin for game five as he led New York to a 3-2 overtime victory in which he stopped a ridiculous 48 of 50 shots. In the closeout game, Sorokin continued his strong play as he stopped 34 of the 37 shots to help give the Islanders a 5-3 victory. At the conclusion of the New York Islanders vs Pittsburgh Penguins series, Sorokin owns a 94 save percentage and 1.95 goals against average. These incredible numbers need to carry on into the second if they stand a chance against the Boston Bruins.
For the Penguins their goaltending situation was not so great during the New York Islanders vs Pittsburgh Penguins series. Tristan Jarry played every game for the Penguins and he was horrendous. Jarry allowed three or more goals in five out of the six games this series. On top of that, he made horrible decisions with the puck that cost his team goals and games. One moment that demonstrates his poor decision skills this series is when he tried to clear the puck up the middle of the ice but instead turns it over to the Islanders Josh Bailey for the game-winning goal.
Sorokin’s playoff statistics come out to a measly .88 save percentage and 1.95 goals against average. He also allowed 21 goals this series which is far too many for a starting NHL goalie. These numbers are obviously not good enough to win a playoff series and will need to drastically improve if the Penguins and Jarry want to find success during next year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
Positive Performers During the New York Islanders vs Pittsburgh Penguins Series
Not all of the Penguins had bad performances during the first round of the playoffs. Jeff Carter and Kris Letang were very productive during their six playoff games. Each of them produced at a point per game pace during the series. Kris Letang led his club with five assists and a single goal. Carter, who was traded to the Penguins from the Los Angeles Kings, carried the goal scoring for the Penguins as he notched four goals in the series including the first goal of game six.
In this series, the Islanders’ scoring was carried by some surprise names. During the New York Islanders vs Pittsburgh Penguins series, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Josh Bailey led the Islanders in scoring. Both players are known to have the ability to score but nobody would have picked them to outscore fellow teammate Mat Barzal.
During the New York Islanders vs Pittsburgh Penguins series, Bailey scored three times and also had three assists. His six points put him third on the team in points. His most important point came in game five when he intercepted Tristan Jarry’s clearing attempt and potted the puck in the net for the win. Pageau is tied for the team leader in points as he has seven through the first six playoff games. He has just a single goal but he had six assists including two in the series-clinching game six.
What Is Next For the Islanders?
Since the Islanders defeated the Penguins they will advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. In the second round, they will match up against the Bruins. The Bruins defeated the Washington Capitals in just five games in the first round. The regular season series was incredibly competitive so this series should be a must-watch for all hockey fans.
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