The first round is set. The Penguins will get in what is my estimation the most favorable matchup. They will face the New York Islanders in round one and will get the first crack at permanently closing Nassau Coliseum. Tom Wilson and the Washington Capitals will get to face off and attempt to beat the crap out of Brad Marchand and the Boston Bruins. This is the most ideal setup for the Penguins and the door was opened for it due to winning the division, which included a record of 6-2 against the Islanders.
The Islanders are obviously well-coached. They have some good players, but the upper end skill is lacking when compared to the other two teams from the division in the playoffs. Another thing in the Penguins favor is the fact they will probably be icing their best lineup of the season in the first game of the playoffs. Injuries and depth have caused the Penguins to use less than ideal lineups the entire regular season. It looks like all skaters will be available and thus pushing Mark Jankowski, Colton Sceviour, and Sam Lafferty out of the lineup.
I said at the beginning of the year the best thing the Penguins could do is create a legit third line to turn the Aston Reese-Blueger-Tanev line into a defensive fourth line. It appears like that has been accomplished. This will be a great advantage for the Penguins and should free up some favorable matchups for the other lines, namely Malkin’s.
Casey DeSmith is not practicing today, but Tristan Jarry is. Jarry will be the starter for Game 1. It will be his second career playoff start after taking over for Matt Murray last year in Game 5.
Looking ahead at the matchup the Penguins look like a team deserving of a 6-2 record against the Islanders
Neither team is great defensively and the Penguins have more fire power. One of the biggest differences is the power play. Pittsburgh’s continued to get better throughout the year and finished in the top five. The Islanders didn’t do that.
Where things get a little interesting is the tables get turned when talking about penalty killing. The Islanders have been very good this year and the Penguins not so much. So on special teams it will either be strength on strength or weakness on weakness
As far as driving play the Penguins have an advantage
Most of the games will be played at 5v5 and the Penguins have been able to control play for the most part. Throw in the finishing abilities of the Penguins forwards, especially Carter and Kapanen who have been going off and it will be problematic for the Islanders. Lou Lamoriello tried to spruce of the Islanders finishing by acquiring Kyle Palmieri, but he only has two goals in 17 games. That is like a good period of Jeff Carter lately.
Today was just a team level glance at the upcoming matchup. We’ll get into things more on an individual level as the week goes one.
Thanks for reading!