Found April 30, 2013 on Taking Bad Schotz:
This week marks the start of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs and the New York Islanders will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. The Islanders, who haven’t made the playoffs since the 2006-07 season, will have to face a red hot Pittsburgh team who outscored them 17-9 in their 5 matchups this season. Although the Penguins have won 23 out of their last 27 games and led the league in goals per game, the Islanders are confident headed into the series. When asked about drawing Pittsburgh in the first round, Matt Moulson replied, “I’m not worried about things we had no control over. They play good hockey. We have to just go in & play our game.” When forward Kyle Okposo was asked the same question, he had a similar answer “We’re looking forward to this challenge. I’ve wanted to get to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since I was 6. It means a lot to me.” The Islanders finished 14-6-4 on the road, but were 1-2-0 in Pittsburgh. Photo Credit: (Gene J. Puskar/AP) The Penguins are led by their captain Sidney Crosby, who led the team in points and assists. Crosby’s status in the series is uncertain after breaking his jaw from a deflected Brooks Orpik slapshot on March 30th. Crosby will see a doctor Tuesday to determine if he can play in game 1 on Wednesday night. Chris Kunitz, who scored 11 goals in March, has cooled and has only 2 goals in April. While this is probably due to the absence of Crosby, the Penguins’ play has picked up since he was sidelined. The trade deadline acquisitions of Jussi Jokinen, Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla have helped make the Penguins the hottest team in the league as of late. Since the trio was acquired, they’ve combined for 18 goals and 18 assists. The Islanders are built around 22-year-old Hart Trophy contender, John Tavares. Tavares led the Islanders in goals with 28, good enough for 3rd in the league. As he goes, the team goes. It will be up to the Penguins to shut down Tavares and his linemates, Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes. The 2nd line of Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey, as well as 3rd line sniper Michael Grabner has provided secondary scoring. Defensively, captain Mark Streit, Lubomir Visnovsky. Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald lead a much-improved unit. Islanders Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov tied for 4th place in the league leaders in wins. In April, Nabokov went 7-0-4. 3 out of the 4 losses came in the shootout and the other was a 1-0 overtime loss against the archrival Rangers. via hockeydraft.ca While goaltending will be the major factor, I believe the series could come down to special teams. The Isles finished the season tied for 10th in power play percentage. It’s worth noting that when the Islanders converted on the advantage this year, they were 15-3-1. The Pens ranked 2nd in the same category. However, the Penguins ranked 25th in the league in penalty kill. Last year the Los Angeles Kings taught us to not count out the underdogs. The Kings snuck into the playoffs last year as the 8th seed and went on to win the Stanley Cup, after taking down the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd seeds in the Western Conference. If the Islanders play a solid defensive game, the goals will come. In order to move on to the 2nd round, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov will have to be at his best. I think that the Islanders have the talent and the depth to take down the mighty Penguins. They are a young team with nothing to lose. Don’t be surprised if this team follows in the Kings’ footsteps and makes a memorable run through the playoffs. Prediction: Islanders in 6 -Malamud
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