The Stanley Cup playoffs are here. Finally. The Pittsburgh Penguins (44-26-12) face the New York Islanders (48-27-7) in Game 1, Round One tonight at the famed Nassau Coliseum. The series is the 26th playoff matchup between the New York and the Penguins. The Penguins and Islanders haven’t met since Dec. 10 and the Penguins are a “different Penguins team.” since then.
New York has a 13-12 all-time record against the Penguins in the playoffs including a pair of infamous series; the Islanders rallied from a 3-0 series deficit in the 1975 Conference Semi-finals and of course the 1993 Islanders ended the two-time reigning Stanley Cup champions in the second round.
(Bleeping) David Volek.
The Penguins hope to strike silver in their NHL best 13th straight playoff season and should have momentum after mustering a late-season charge. The Penguins lost in regulation only four times in their final 21 games. The late season charge, paired with the Penguins ample playoff experience, should bode well.
The Islanders remains to be a team that defies explanation due to holding a 32 goal-differential while scoring only 228 goals during the year, the second least of all playoff teams. The flip side is that they have allowed the least amount of goals among the teams in the playoffs but will have to rely on their goaltending if they wish to make a playoff run.
It may be surprising, but Matt Murray will start in net. Murray started the final 11 games of the season for the Penguins. This was his career-long stretch of starts and played in 20 of the team’s final 21 contests. Robin Lehner appears the starter for game one for New York.
The Penguins could not end the regular season with a win but still picked up a valuable point against the Rangers 4-3 in OT, Saturday. The teams exchanged goals in the first period on Sidney Crosby’s (35) 2-on-1 marker and Brendan Smith’s (4) breakaway. Crosby’s goal was his 99th point of the year and provided an early step on his way to reaching his first 100 point season since 2014.
Neither team could break the tie in the second period despite both teams registering 10+ shots. The Penguins broke the score two and a half minutes into the third period on a Nick Bjugstad (14) tap in off a rebound. The goal was also his ninth with the Penguins since he was acquired on Feb. 1. New York was quick to respond with two goals in the span of 1:16. Brady Skjei (8) blasted a shot from the point while Vladislav Namestnikov (11) scored shorthanded to push the Penguins to a possible wild card seeding with a loss.
Jake Guentzel (40) scored with 2:35 remaining in the third period to tie it 3-3, sending the game to overtime and giving Pittsburgh the point it needed to avoid falling into the first wild card. Crosby added his 100th point of the season on the Guentzel tying marker by collecting the primary assist. The teams went to overtime with the chance to collect first-round home ice for the Penguins. Despite the late excitement, they could not muster one last goal before Ryan Strome (19) ran the gauntlet to win the game for New York.
The Islanders helped their bid at second place in the Metro with a 3-0 win against Washington, Saturday. Valtteri Filppula (16, 17) and Matt Martin (6) accounted for the scoring in the game. Lehner earned the shutout with a 29 save effort and collected his 25th win of the year. Phoenix Copley started Washington and stopped 21 of 23 shots.
The Penguins 25-man roster for Game 1 features 20 players who have NHL playoff experience. Captain Sidney Crosby is the leader with 160 games, Evgeni Malkin (158), Kris Letang (128) and Matt Cullen (128) are the top five. The only players without playoff experience include forwards Jared McCann and Teddy Blueger, defenseman Zach Trotman and backup goaltenders Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry.
Sidney Crosby is one power-play goal from tying Kevin Stevens for third place on the team’s all-time playoff power-play goals list.
Brian Dumoulin (Day-to-day, skating)- Game Time Decision
Zach Aston Reese (Longer Term, skating)-Game Time Decision
Andrew Ladd (Torn ACL. Out for Season)
Tanner Fritz (Upper Body)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||15.1% (11-73) 27th NHL||92.2% (5-64) 1st NHL|
|Anaheim Ducks||26.3% (20-76) 5th NHL||86.3% (10-76) 3rd NHL|
Penguins -105 Over/Under -5, -10
Expected Penguins Lines
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Rickard Rakell||Evgeni Malkin||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jason Zucker||Jeff Carter||Danton Heinen|
|Brock McGinn||Teddy Blueger||Evan Rodrigues|
|Mike Matheson||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Mark Friedman||Chad Ruhwedel|