March 30, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders center Brad Boyes (24) shoots the puck on goal as Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun (92) and defenseman Mark Eaton (4) defend during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
#1 Pittsburgh Penguins (36-12-0, 72 points) vs. #8 New York Islanders (24-17-7, 55 points)
Season Series: Pittsburgh won the season series 4-1
Series Schedule: All times Eastern. (*) = If necessary.
Amid the Blackhawks success lies a equally dangerous team in the Eastern Conference; the Pittsburgh Penguins. For the Penguins, it’s all about continuing what worked; good puck movement, letting the first and second lines contribute, and playing a full 60 minutes, which is what helped them run up the scoreboard on more than one occasion this season. They should win this series handily, and they can do so in a timely fashion, which lets them rest up for the tougher, later series’. If Sidney Crosby returns quickly, he could bolster this teams offense, and provide solid leadership from a person who’s been to the dance more than one time in his short career. The Pens have been here before; they have to put last years embarrasing exit behind them, and focus on the present if they want to make a Cup run.
Leading Scorer: Sidney Crosby – 15 G 41 A 56 Pts
Backstop: Marc-Andre Fleury – 23-8-0, 2.39 GAA, .916 SV%
X Factor: Sidney Crosby – A broken jaw put him out of the lineup for the entire month of April. Will he return in time, and with enough energy, to lead the Pens to another lengthy Cup run?
Ex-Blackhawk Factor: Craig Adams
For the Islanders, its the opposite; playing spoiler is what they are going to attempt to do in this first round match-up. The Penguins are favored to take it all the way to at least the Finals; New York has the lowest odds of winning the Cup at 40/1. What they are easily able to is be pesky players, a thorn in the side of the East’s best team. As the Flyers expertly showed last season, the Pens become a very beatable team when their opponent manages to weasel their way under their skin. New York has lost their last two games going in to the playoffs, but they did take extra time, so they took one point in both. New York isn’t going to throw in the towel. They will battle to the end and at the very least make it a bumpy ride for the Pens.
Leading Scorer: John Tavares – 28 G 19 A 47 Pts
Backstop: Evgeni Nabokov – 23-11-7, 2.50 GAA, .910 SV%
X Factor: Lubomir Visnovky – The imported D-man is the Islanders leader in plus/minus, and recorded 14 points in 35 games. Does he have what it takes to shut down the high-powered Pens offense?
Ex-Blackhawk Factor: None
Prediction Sure To Go Wrong: The Islanders will put up a fight, but it will not be enough to cap the Penguins offensive attack. Penguins will put New York on the plank with three straight, and the Isles will battle back, winning one, before the Pens finish them off at home in game 5.