The New York Islanders arrive in Pittsburgh on a two-game winning streak, with a couple of wins over the Flyers and Hurricanes. They are still a team trying to find an identity without the presence of John Tavares in the lineup. Tavares of course took his services to Toronto and left the Islanders with their pants down suddenly. Mat Barzal showcased plenty of talent as a rookie last season. The Isles have their fingers crossed that he develops into the next must-watch centre in Brooklyn/Long Island.
He’s scored 1 goal and 9 assists thus far this season. Josh Bailey and Andres Lee are tied for the most points on the team. They have a sizable test on Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road. The Pens are riding a four-game winning streak after they swept their road trip against the Maple Leafs, Oilers, Flames, and Canucks. The most impressive of the group was a 3-0 win over the Leafs to open the road trip.
Matt Murray was struggling mightily in net before he shutout a solid offence like the Maple Leafs. He turned around to look rusty against the Oilers after a four-day layoff, but the Pens allowed just 1 goal in their last two games, against the Flames and Canucks. It wasn’t the smoothest start for Pittsburgh, but note that they’ve lost only one game in regulation.
The Penguins own a record of 6-1-1 through the month of October. Don’t tell them that they’re out of their prime just yet, but I will say the window is going to be closing fast on this era of Pittsburgh hockey. Crosby is already 31 years old and Malkin is 32, surprisingly enough. It feels like yesterday that they were both coming into the league as rookies. Head below for our free Islanders vs. Penguins pick.
N.Y. Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Pick
The Penguins are a team that have had the ability to flip a switch and pour it on all of the sudden. A couple of years ago Crosby was on a disastrous stretch in the first-half of the season, then in the second-half he went on a streak where he couldn’t stop producing. On a smaller scale, the same thing has happening at present. And when Crosby is playing well, the rest of the team follows suit.
He was held out of the goal column through the first six games. People were wondering where Crosby was. The rest of the league didn’t want anyone to wake him up. He’s scored 5 goals in the Pens last three games. It included a highlight reel goal against the Oilers in overtime that will be replayed often.
The offence has been clicking for the Penguins throughout the year. Scoring goals likely isn’t going to be a problem for them. They are averaging 4.44 goals per game for 1st in the NHL. It isn’t even close between them and the 2nd place Capitals, who are averaging 3.8 per game.
The x-factor for the Pens has to be Matt Murray in net. If Murray can play a strong game in net, that will put them on the track of being a Stanley Cup contender. The emergence of Daniel Sprong at right wing will help as well. The Amsterdam native is still looking for his 1st goal, but he’s assisted on 4 goals and looking more comfortable with each passing game.
While Murray has been playing better recently, their numbers on the defensive end have been improving, naturally. Despite his issues early on, the Pens rank in the top-half of the league with 2.78 goals allowed per game for 13th. The Islanders have surprisingly been solid with Robin Lehner in net. They’re allowing 2.5 goals per game for 2.5 goals per game. The Islanders are well off pace of the Penguins offence, though. They are scoring 3 goals per game, as they adjust to life without Tavares.
The Islanders do not have a good history playing in Pittsburgh. They head into the Steel City with a record of 7-24 in their last 31 trips there. Lehner has been less than adequate against the Penguins with a 3.32 GAA and 0.889 save percentage. Conversely, Murray has been sharp with a 2.25 GAA and 0.921 save percentage. And, he doesn’t have to worry about Tavares on Tuesday night. The Penguins should be able to return home to a 4-2 final or so against the Islanders in this one.