In the 1974-1975 playoffs, they lost their first playoff meeting with the Isles in a 7 games series. They swept the St. Louis Blues in the preliminary round and then took a 3 games to none lead over the New York Islanders before losing the series in game 7 in the Quarterfinals, becoming only the 2nd team in Stanley Cup history to lose a series after going up 3-0.
The second time the Penguins faced the Islanders in the playoffs was in the 1981-1982 season when the Isles were the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions in the Patrick Division Semifinals. This series was a best of five series and yet again the Pens and Isles went to the limit with the Islanders winning game 5, eventually advancing to their 3rd Stanley Cup.
And, of course, the last time the Pittsburgh Penguins faced the New York Islanders was in the 1992-1993 Patrick Division Semifinals. This time, the Pens were the defending two-time Stanley Cup Champions and, after Mario Lemieux's battle with Hodgkin's disease and subsequent return to win the scoring title, it almost seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Penguins would win Cup #3. However, as many of us know from watching, it didn't turn out that way as the Islanders won in OT of game 7 to advance and send the Penguins home early.
This year's team is also strong. I won't say foregone conclusion, as not to jinx them, but this team is built to win the Stanley Cup THIS YEAR. Between the offensive talent they already had (Sid, Geno, Neal, Kunitz, Dupuis, Letang, and even the resurgent Martin) and then the acquisitions before this year's trade deadline (Morrow, Murray, Iginla, and Jokinen), this is their biggest chance. Not to mention the preseason addition of Vokoun as a backup to Fleury and it's obvious management knows with the new salary cap, this may be the last time for a while where they could add at the deadline and still have everyone else here. So, without sounding too dire, this is it! But if the past 3 series with the Isles are any indication, they should more than likely expect a longer series than a sweep.
However, at least this round, standing in the Pens' way is their 3-time former playoff nemesis New York Islanders. While I don't know that this Islanders team deserves to rank up there with past Isles' squads, I'm not sure that, if in 92-93 most folks would have said that team did either and look how that series turned out. These Penguins need to make sure their focus is game-to-game and their objective is to advance to the next progressive round. They've got the talent. They need to make sure their effort and discipline match the talent level they have. If so, I can't imagine anyone getting in their way.
Obviously, the ultimate goal, both for the team and their fans, is winning the Stanley Cup, but to get there, they will have to vanquish the Islanders and will, in the process, maybe make the 92-93 loss a little, and I mean VERY little, less painful.
Let's go Pens!