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Game 1 Preview: New York Islanders @ Pittsburgh Penguins

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The quest for the Cup begins this afternoon for the Penguins

NHL: New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Who: New York Islanders (0-0) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (0-0)

When: 12:00 p.m. eastern

How to Watch: NBC

Opponent Track: The Islanders finished their regular season with a 3-2 OT loss to Boston last Monday.

Pens path ahead: Game 2 is Tuesday night in Pittsburgh before the series shifts to New York for Game 3 (Thursday) and 4 (next Saturday afternoon). Game 5, if necessary, is back in Pittsburgh on Monday 5/24.

Season Series: Pittsburgh went 6-2-0 against the Islanders so far this season (with NYI going 2-4-2 from their perspective). Those six wins are the most the Pens have beaten the Islanders in the regular season.

  • Feb 6: 4-3 NYI
  • Feb 8: 4-3 Pens (shootout)
  • Feb 18: 4-1 Pens
  • Feb 20: 3-2 Pens
  • Feb 27: 4-3 Pens (overtime)
  • Feb 28: 2-0 NYI
  • March 27: 6-3 Pens
  • March 29: 2-1 Pens

Recent History: The Pens are 9-2-3 in the last 14 games against the Islanders.

SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Lighthouse Hockey for the latest news to know about the Islanders.

Possible Lines

FORWARDS

Leo Komarov - Mathew Barzal - Jordan Eberle

Anthony Beauvillier - Brock Nelson - Josh Bailey

Kyle Palmieri - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Oliver Wahlstrom

Cal Clutterbuck - Casey Cizikas - Matt Martin

DEFENSEMEN

Adam Pelech / Ryan Pulock

Nick Leddy / Scott Mayfield

Andy Greene / Noah Dobson

Starting goalie: Semyon Varlamov

Scratches: Ross Johnston, Anatoly Golyshev, Simon Holmstrom, Kieffer Bellows, Otto Koivula, Austin Czarnik, Michael Del Colle, Cole Bardeau, Dmytro Timashev, Braydon Coburn, Samuel Bolduc, Bode Wilde, Grant Hutton, Sebastian Aho, Ken Appleby, Cory Schneider

IR: Anders Lee, Johnny Boychuk

—It’s apparently good to go for Varlamov, who left the game with an injury on Monday but is ready to play again after the better part of a week to recover and prepare for the playoffs.

Islanders ready to get to their game.

New York knows what they need to do to be successful, and they’re prepared to go and try and execute. From the Islanders website:

The Islanders led the league with 10 shutouts and allowed the fewest goals against in the third period this season (36), so they were one of the best teams at closing out games. The Isles were 29-3-5 when tied or leading after two periods.

The Islanders led the East Division in hits (1,455) and blocks (797) this season and that type of commitment will be needed to stifle one of the NHL’s most potent teams in Pittsburgh.

“We’re going to have to go to the hard areas, be disciplined, do all the things to our identity to a tee and hopefully get them out of their identity,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “Usually he playoffs is all about being patient. It’s not patient when you’re backing up, it’s staying aggressive, do the right things, stay patient and don’t try to force things that aren’t there.”

Pittsburgh averaged the second-most goals-per-game in the NHL this season (3.45), so they’ll look to outgun the Islanders. Pittsburgh’s 25 goals were the most any team scored against the Islanders this season.

“They’ve got three, or even four lines that are capable of scoring,” Trotz said. “You don’t really get a break when you have a lineup like that. They don’t give you a break and nor should they. Every moment counts and we’ll have to be detailed in our defensive game and we’re going to be on the right side of the puck and make good decisions with the puck.”

And now for the Pens..

Yesterday’s practice lines

Forwards

Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust

Jared McCann - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen

Jason Zucker- Frederick Gaudreau - Evan Rodrigues

Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev

Defense

Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang

Mike Matheson / Cody Ceci

Marcus Pettersson / John Marino

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

Scratches: Evgeni Malkin, Colton Sceviour, Sam Lafferty, Radim Zohorna, Mark Jankowski, Juuso Riikola, Chad Ruhwedel, Mark Friedman, Yannick Weber, Casey DeSmith

—Evgeni Malkin isn’t officially out as of press time for this preview, but it wasn’t looking good as of yesterday.

—With Malkin drama back, it’s gone a bit under the radar but Casey DeSmith was confirmed to re-aggravate his injury from last week in practice and was not on the ice yesterday either. It will be Maxime Lagace on the bench serving as Tristan Jarry’s backup today.

—The Pens will be wearing their yellow alternate jerseys for every home playoff game this spring. Is the team trying to channel shades of 2016 where they also wore there then-alternate jersey at home all the way to the championship? Can’t hurt to try.

—You might have noticed that NYI has a ton of scratches, and the Pens don’t really have much of a “black aces” squad. That’s because Wilkes-Barre played their last regular season game yesterday. Expect names like Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Anthony Angello, Josh Currie, Kevin Czuczman and the like to make their way back to add the extreme extra depth for NHL Pittsburgh soon. None really figure to factor into NHL playoff games this spring.

Crosby keeps climbing

In addition to try and help his team win, Sidney Crosby is on the hunt for more history as this playoff begins. From the Penguins PR branch:

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby enters the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs looking to build on already one of the most decorated playoff careers in NHL history. Crosby, a three-time Stanley Cup champion and two-time Conn Smythe winner, has amassed 189 points (68G-121A) in 168 games which is good for the eighth-most playoff points in NHL history. He enters the postseason just one point shy of tying hall-of-famer Brett Hull (190) for seventh place on the NHL’s all-time postseason scoring list.

When Crosby scores in the playoffs it tends to come in bunches, as 63 of his 168 career playoff games have been multi-point efforts (37.5%). Only Wayne Gretzky (108) and Mark Messier (77) have had more multi-point games in NHL history:

Player Multi-Point Games

Wayne Gretzky 108
Mark Messier 77
Sidney Crosby 63
Jari Kurri 60
Paul Coffey 56

Crosby is also just one multi-assist game away from becoming the sixth player in NHL history to have 30 or more multi-assist games in the postseason.

When you’re on a playoff list that’s just you and the 1980’s Edmonton Oilers star players, that’s great company to be in.

Playoff Jake

Jake Guentzel has been an elite playoff performer since he burst onto the scene in the spring of 2017.

Penguins winger Jake Guentzel has turned in some of his best performances in the playoffs, recording 46 points (25G-21A) in 45 games. His 1.02 points-per-game average in the postseason ranks sixth among all active players (min. 25 games). Among Pittsburgh skaters, only Sidney Crosby has a higher points-per-game average in the postseason (1.13).

Since making his NHL playoff debut in 2017, only Washington’s Alex Ovechkin has scored more goals than Guentzel’s 25:

Player GP G

Alex Ovechkin 52 28
Jake Guentzel 45 25
Brayden Point 44 22 |
Evgeny Kuznetsov 52 21
Joe Pavelski 56 21
Brad Marchand 55 21

That list is more impressive when considering the Penguins have only played eight post-season games in the last two seasons, and only won one series in the last three years.