Islanders vs. Penguins: Silver lining of 4-1 loss was special teams

This was meeting number three of six between the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins in February. So it makes sense for Barry Trotz to call this a playoff-style game.

In the two previous meetings this season, the Isles and Penguins have played tight high-scoring games. Both finished 4-3 with each team getting a W (although Pittsburgh’s came in overtime). From the onset, it seemed like the Islanders got the memo.

New York Islanders fail to show up for a playoff-style game

Not even a full three minutes into the contest, Casey Cizikas let Chris Tanev know he remembered that cross-check from a few nights ago with a flurry of fists. After that though the intensity, at least from an Islanders perspective completely dissipated.

The top line of Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal, and Josh Bailey had their moments of course, through the opening frame the trio held a 91.19 xGF%. Which is, you know, pretty darn good.

Of course, Sidney Crosby (playing in career game 999) scored his customary point against the Islanders. Through 69 career games against the Isles Crosby has 115 points. The most against any opponent.

If anyone had a good game for the Islanders it was the guy between the pipes in Semyon Varlamov who finished with a 0.917SV% on 36 shots. His average 1.89GAA and 0.931SV% coming into the game is no fluke and Varyl was yet again in top shape. Specifically on the penalty kill.

Halfway through the second, the Penguins had a minute-plus of 5on3 time followed by more 5on4 time. The Pens would get seven shots on Varlamov between the 5on3 and 5on4. He’d stop all of them. In fact, Varlamov would stop all eleven shots he faced on the Penguin’s four power-play opportunities.

Special Teams

It feels weird to say, but the Islanders are a good power play team now. It’s going to take some getting used to, but they are. On the season they hold a 21.7% efficiency on the man advantage. The only goal they’d score tonight was on the power play, courtesy of Brock Nelson.

Finishing the game 1for3 on the man-advantage pushes their efficiency on the season to 22.5%.  Brock now has four power-play goals on the season. His career-high is six. Ideally, he starts finding that sort of productivity on at 5on5.

The penalty kill was even better. They were able to keep the Penguins – admittedly poor – man-advantage off the board. Going 0for4 on the PK pushes them to 82.9% on the year.

Both of these teams will play on Saturday in what will surely be another “playoff-style” game with some of the physical stuff going on in the latter part of the night. For now, the streak is over, and the Islanders will get a day to reset and recharge before they try to get back to their A-game.

Winners

Tristan Jarry (1GA, 0.969SV%): He’s one of the worst goalies in the league, but he didn’t look like it tonight.
Jason Zucker (1G, 1A): Dive to the net and good things happen.
Bryan Rust (1G, 1A): Rust never sleeps (I know I’ve used that before).

Losers

Noah Dobson (-1, 2SOG): He was at fault for Blueger’s game-winner.
Scott Mayfield (-2, 12PIM): Bad high sticking penalty ON the PK is not ideal.
Kieffer Bellows (-1): Caught puck watching on the Zucker goal, Barry won’t like that.