Hello folks, now that the Penguins have the playoffs officially clinched I wanted to take a look at some potential first round matchups in the east, and what would be ideal for the Penguins. I'm going to preface this by saying due to the parity in the league these days any team is going to be a rough draw, but perhaps some are better than others. I'm going mostly by personal interpretation here with a few stats reflecting some things I notice. Hopefully someone with better knowledge of advanced statistics can comment on my thoughts, and provide some context in that regard.
Alright then, first off thanks to the ridiculous division champion rules, the Penguins are all but guaranteed (hopefully we can say so after tonight's game) the 1 or 2 seed. In past years this rule has existed solely to bone the Atlantic division, but it appears that fate befalls the Northeast this year. Good. Tired of that 4-5 matchup.
As of today before the games start, there are 4 teams that seem most likely to finish either 7 or 8:
6) Ottawa: 44 points
7) NY Rangers: 42 points
8) NY Islanders (!!!): 42 Points
9) NJ Devils: 40 Points
Winnipeg/Washington at 40/42 points respectively could also end up here, but it seems more likely one will win the SE for that coveted 3 seed, while the other will miss out. I see Washington getting the 3 and Winnipeg missing out this year.
Anyways back to our situation, which of these teams would be a better first round draw for the Penguins? My suggestion, perhaps somewhat obviously, is the New York Islanders. Couple reasons for this, most notably lack of experience, and lack of playoff goaltending. With most of their young core having not seen the playoffs, this is a major advantage for a penguins team with copious amounts of playoff experience. The other teams we could face all have considerably more playoff experience, especially in the case of NYR and NJD.
More importantly, as evidenced by our exit to the hands of Montreal in 2010, is playoff goaltending. This honestly is why I am hoping for an opening draw against the Isles, because while Nabokov is a regular season stalwart, his playoff history is...well less than spectacular. The stats aren't too bad, with a playoff career .913 SV% and a 2.29 GAA, However with a little context, his W-L is sub .500, and this was playing for the extremely talented SJ Sharks teams of 04-10. Granted that team is famous for playoff collapses, but anyone who watched those teams lose can say he is a big reason for that distinction.
The other 3 goalies we could potentially face absolutely terrify me. Anderson, Lundqvist, Brodeur. The latter two need no introduction, however Anderson's playoff stats are remarkable. He doesn't have a series win in two tries, however he was playing in two 1-8 matchups as the 8 seed that he almost stole by himself. His numbers are .933 SV% and 2.29 GAA. Anyone who saw him duel against Lundqvist last year knows what I am saying.
I've been a bit long winded here without saying too much, but I think the Islanders would be the best matchup for the Penguins. Like I said they will not be a pushover either, but I think they're better than the alternative.