The NHL is set up with another great Saturday of hockey on February 20. Twelve games are up on the board throughout Saturday. One of these games will be between the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins. These two teams have had solid starts to this season and will look for a big win in this one. This game will drop the puck at around 7:00 PM Eastern time on NHL Network.
New York has started out this season with a record of 8-5-3, which has them sitting in fourth place of the East Division. The Islanders are coming off a loss in their last game, but have won five of their last seven. New York will look to keep up this recent hot streak with a win on Saturday night. I expect the Islanders to come out hot in this one.
The Penguins have put up a record of 8-6-1 to this point in the season, which has them in fifth place of the East Division. Pittsburgh won their last game and three of their last four. The Penguins will look to grab a win in this one to tie New York and Washington in points on the season. I expect Pittsburgh to try and set the pace of play early in this one.
These two teams are playing competitive hockey in the East Division, which should lead to a great night of action on Saturday. These two teams have had nice streaks coming into this one and will look to keep it going with a win in this one. If either team can set the pace early in this one, it could give them the necessary edge on Saturday night.
The Islanders and the Penguins met up three times so far this season. New York hosted the first game on February 6. Jake Guentzel had goal and an assist on the night, but it was not enough for Pittsburgh. Jordan Eberle finished with two goals, while Michael Dal Colle had two assists on the night. Semyon Varlamov finished with 28 saves on 31 shots to lead New York to a 4-3 win.
The second game of the season series shifted to New York on February 11. Mathew Barzal, Casey Cizikas and Jean-Gabriel Pageau all scored for the Islanders, but it was not enough. Bryan Rust had a goal and an assist, while Zach Anton-Reese and Evgeni Malkin both scored as well. Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout to lift Pittsburgh to a 4-3 win.
The most recent game in the season series shifted to Pittsburgh on February 18. Brock Nelson scored the lone goal for the Islanders, which was not enough. Bryan Rust and Jason Zucker both had a goal and an assist on the night. Evgeni Malkin added two assists. Tristan Jarry finished with 31 saves on 32 shots to help lead the Penguins to a 4-1 win.
Pittsburgh has been able to win two of the three games so far this season. Each team has won their games with four goals, which should lead to the defense tightening up a bit in this one. I expect both teams to try and keep up the offensive push though. New York could not break through until the third period in the last game and will look to score earlier in this one.
The Islanders special teams have been strong to start out this season. New York has been able to score on 11 of their 49 power play opportunities, which is a 22.5 percent success rate. The Islanders have killed off 34 of the 41 penalties against them, which is an 82.9 percent penalty kill. New York will look to keep this up in this one.
Pittsburgh has struggled to get anything going on special teams so far this season. The Penguins have capitalized on 6 of their 46 power play chances, which is a 13 percent power play. Pittsburgh’s penalty kill has given up 13 goals on opposing teams 49 power play attempts, which is a 73.5 percent kill rate. The Penguins will look to turn it around in this one.
New York has the edge on special teams in this one as their power play has been off to a much better start. The Islanders penalty kill has also been better. The Penguins will need to flip the script in this one as they try to grab a win on Saturday night. If Pittsburgh can score on a couple power play chances, it could give them another win against New York.
I expect Semyon Varlamov to get the nod in the net for the Islanders in this one. Varlamov has started in 12 games so far this season, going 7-3-2. He has posted a .930 save percentage and a GAA of 1.99 in those games. Varlamov’s last start was against the Penguins on Thursday night, where he stopped 33 of 36 shots in the loss.
Casey DeSmith will likely get the start between the pipes for Pittsburgh on Saturday night. DeSmith has earned a record of 4-1 throughout his 5 starts this season. He has put up a save percentage of .885 and a 2.84 GAA in those games. DeSmith finished with 26 saves on 29 shots in his last start against the Islanders on February 11.
These two goalies have been solid throughout this season, but it has been Varlamov who has posted the better save percentage and GAA. DeSmith has not played in about a week and will look to use that to his advantage in this one. I expect both goalies to try and set the pace with a quick start in this one as they look to grab a win on Saturday night.
The Penguins are coming into this one off a win against New York and will look to pull off the sweep with a win on Saturday. Pittsburgh has won two of the three games against the Islanders so far this season, but I think the Islanders will come out quicker in this one. New York had a slow start on Thursday night, but I expect them to play better early on in this one.
BetOnline has the Penguins listed as a -125 against the money line in this one. This implies that Pittsburgh will win this game around 55.6 percent of the time. I think that this game should be closer to even with how tight they are in the standings. If New York can come out better on offense in this one, I like their chances to pull off the upset on the road.