The second NHL playoff series to drop the puck, the Pittsburgh Penguins (37-16-3) and New York Islanders (32-17-7) continue the East Division playoff action. Pittsburgh is making its 15th consecutive playoff appearance (with three Stanley Cup wins in that time), while New York made its third straight postseason campaign. The Islanders have not won the Cup since winning four in a row from 1979-80 to 1982-83.
In this Penguins vs Islanders series preview, I’ll break down all you need to know before the Penguins and Islanders take the ice, along with a winning pick for who will advance in the 2021 NHL Playoffs.
Penguins vs Islanders Series Schedule
GAME ONE: Sunday, May 16 @ Noon
GAME TWO: Tuesday, May 18 @ 7:30 P.M.
GAME THREE: Thursday, May 20 @ 7:00 P.M.
GAME FOUR: Saturday, May 22 @ 3:00 P.M.
GAME FIVE*: Monday, May 24 @ TBD
GAME SIX*: Wednesday, May 26 @ TBD
GAME 7*: Friday, May 28 @ TBD
* = If needed, All Times Eastern
Penguins vs Islanders Regular Season Results
FEBRUARY 6: Islanders 4, Penguins 3
FEBRUARY 11: Penguins 4, Islanders 3 (SO)
FEBRUARY 18: Penguins 4, Islanders 1
FEBRUARY 20: Penguins 3, Islanders 2
FEBRUARY 27: Penguins 4, Islanders 3 (OT)
FEBRUARY 28: Islanders 2, Penguins 0
MARCH 27: Penguins 6, Islanders 3
MARCH 29: Penguins 2, Islanders 1
Tristan Jarry: 25-9-3, 2.75 GAA, .909 save percentage, two shutouts
Casey DeSmith: 11-7-0, 2.54 GAA, .912 save percentage, two shutouts
Semyon Varlamov: 19-11-4, 2.04 GAA, .929 save percentage, seven shutouts
Ilya Sorokin: 13-6-3, 2.17 GAA, .918 save percentage, three shutouts
Evgeni Malkin – undisclosed, expected return: Sunday, May 16
Tristan Jarry – upper body, expected return: Sunday, May 16
Casey DeSmith – lower body, expected return: Sunday, May 16
Mike Matheson – face, expected return: Sunday, May 16
Brandon Tanev – upper body, expected return: Sunday, May 16
Evan Rodrigues – ankle, expected return: Sunday, May 16
Semyon Varlamov – undisclosed, expected return: Sunday, May 16
Anders Lee – torn ACL, expected return: October 2021
Special Teams Stats
Power Play: 23.7% (36/152), fourth in NHL, four shorthanded goals against
Penalty Kill: 77.4% (116/151), 27th in NHL, six shorthanded goals
Power Play: 18.8% (27/144), 21st in NHL, no shorthanded goals against
Penalty Kill: 83.7% (113/135), sixth in NHL, four shorthanded goals
Penguins vs Islanders Storylines
The Penguins and Islanders last met in the playoffs in the 2018-19 playoffs. New York swept the series 4-0 before getting swept by the Carolina Hurricanes in the next round (Carolina then got swept by Boston, completing a run of Eastern Conference finals sweeps).
Both clubs rested their starting goaltenders in the regular season finales, but there is no reason to believe we will see anyone other than Jarry and Varlamov in net to start the first game.
New York’s offense has dried up since captain Anders Lee’s injury. In 30 games before Lee tore his ACL (he played 27 of them), the Islanders averaged 2.87 goals per game, not including shootout goals. However, in the 25 games after, New York scored 2.56 goals per game.
Pittsburgh acquired Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings ahead of the trade deadline. In 14 games since the trade, Carter has nine goals and two assists. He’ll slot in as the third line center with Evgeni Malkin in the lineup, but he should still log significant power play minutes. In his 16 year career, Carter has 39 goals and 35 assists in 120 playoff games.
Penguins vs Islanders Betting Pick
Pittsburgh and New York could not play more different styles of hockey if they tried. The Penguins move the puck with speed through all zones and generate sustained offensive pressure, but they are susceptible defensively. In contrast, the Islanders stifle opposing offenses with elite defensive play and sound goaltending, but only two playoff teams average fewer shots per game (29.0) than New York.
Islanders’ head coach Barry Trotz has a ton of experience against the Penguins as the former coach of the Washington Capitals. While Trotz’s game plan should steal a few games in this series, I don’t see how the Islanders put up enough offense to keep up.
SERIES WINNER: Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
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