The Islanders will look to get going against a quality opponent this evening, the Pittsburgh Penguins. There are two ways of looking at this game for the Islanders. In one instance, it could be a game where they just get skated off the ice by a much better team. On the other hand it could provide a motivation boost to a team who desperately needs to find some confidence. The Isles edged the Calgary Flames out in overtime a couple nights ago, a 2-1 win to give them their second win in seven attempts. With Gerrard Gallant fired in Florida, the door is open for the Islanders to fire Jack Capuano and hire Gallant.
Remember that Gallant was a finalist for the coach of the year last season, only to get let go after a 3-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes, 22 games into the year. Was it the right move? I can’t say it was, I don’t see how the Panthers get better after dumping Gallant. I tend to like to wait and see how things shake out, though, so I’ll do that here as well. But maybe the Panthers loss is the Islanders’ gain, or perhaps even the Vegas Golden Knights. Capuano saved his job temporarily, but the availability of Gallant puts him on thinner ice in my opinion.
A win against the Pens tonight would do him pretty good, and put him back in the good graces of management for a few more minutes at least. There hasn’t been much energy out of the Islanders this season, and if that doesn’t change soon, a coaching change might be the jolt of energy the team needs. We can’t put all of the blame on Capuano, but his message may be running dry in Brooklyn. They welcome the Penguins tonight, with the Pens winners in two of their last five games. It hasn’t exactly been a picture perfect couple of weeks for them, as they come into Islanders riding a 5-4-1 run in their last ten games. We’ll see how they respond tonight after a 4-3 overtime win against the Devils.
The Penguins come in with a record of 13-6-3, so not too many complaints from them as they are currently 2nd in the Metropolitan. They’re sitting in a fine position and should be able to pose a threat to capture the Stanley Cup yet again. It would make for back-to-back championships, as well as the third of Sidney Crosby’s career. They face the Isles, who have been a desolate group on offense. The Islanders haven’t scored more than 3 goals since November 7th. In that time, the team scored an average of only 1.62 goals per game. It’s been tough on the Islanders, who are trying to figure out how to put the puck in the back of the net.
On the season, the Islanders have scored 2.38 goals per game and are 22nd in the NHL. Their effort of late on offence suggests they’ve been playing much worse than that. Conversely, the Penguins are 7th with 2.91 goals scored per game. It appears that Matt Murray will get the call in net tonight. He’s been red hot, with a GAA of 1.75 and save percentage of 0.939%. In a lot of ways, Murray was the MVP of the Penguins last season. After Fleury was injured, Murray conducted himself like a 10-year veteran and stuffed opposing offences all the way to a Stanley Cup. The Pens should be able to take care of business tonight, adding to the mounting stress piling up on head coach Jack Capuano.
PICK: PENGUINS TO WIN -150