The New York Islanders did what they had to do at home, as they protected the Nassau Coliseum with two wins. The atmosphere was predictably electric and the Penguins didn’t have much of an answer for it. Defence plays a bigger role now in the playoffs. Luckily for the Islanders, they have a head coach who stresses defence and fundamentals along the blue line. Barry Trotz had a better offence when he was with the Capitals.
They certainly had more firepower, but he’s done a marvelous job at changing the culture for the Islanders. The Isles were a bunch of creampuffs who would get blown over by the slightest touch. Through the entire Tavares era there, the team had no concept of how to play defence.
They didn’t improve because Tavares left, but because Trotz signed a contract to be their head coach. So, yeah, while they’ve had an impressive season, don’t think that he wouldn’t want a goal scorer like Tavares on the roster. It will be interesting to see what happens with Anders Lee and his contract. The Isles want to resign him to a long-term deal, but nothing has been solidified yet.
He is the playmaker on this team that keeps things moving for the offence. Lee may not always get on the stat sheet, but his contributions go far beyond that. He and his teammates did a nice job taking the spotlight off Sidney Crosby in Long Island.
He was virtually invisible and struggled to get anything going for himself in Game 1 and 2. All it can take is one garbage goal by Crosby to get him going, so I wouldn’t count him out. With the series back in Pittsburgh and down 0-2, Crosby must take the reins and play like the best player in the league on Sunday. Head below for our free Islanders vs. Penguins pick.
N.Y. Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Game 3 Pick
The Islanders and Penguins went to overtime in Game 1 before Josh Bailey sent everybody home early into extra time. They didn’t need overtime in Game 2, ultimately recording a 3-1 win on Friday. It was a fairly even game with 34 shots for the Islanders compared to 33 for the Penguins. The difference was Lehner between the pipes. I’ve said it over a month ago, but if I have a vote for the Vezina, my vote would be going to him.
He’s also been one of the most valuable players in the league, which is a crazy turnaround from his days with the Buffalo Sabres. He was fortunate to get out of that dumpster fire. Lehner faced a ton of heat in Game 1 and made a few dandy saves to give the Isles a win in the opener. He had to make 41 saves to get his team in a position to get the overtime goal.
Pittsburgh were winners in their last two meetings in the regular season by scores of 2-1 and 6-2. The Isles were able to get those two losses back under much larger circumstances. Their last trip to Pittsburgh was a failure with the 6-2 loss. This should be another solid contest between two evenly match opponents.
The Penguins should be able to get the edge early thanks to their home crowd and with desperation creeping in, they’re going to put forth a better game than in Game 1 and 2. I’m not paying -200 on them, but there appears to be plenty of value on the puckline. We get an experienced Penguins team with their backs against the wall at home vs a young and inexperienced squad who are likely to get too tight with a 2-0 lead. The Penguins have been in this spot in the past and made out pretty well in the end. I’m going to take my chances at +155 that the Pens will win a 3-1 or 4-2 game on Sunday afternoon.