3. The Pittsburgh Penguins Are Still a Dangerous Team in the East
As long as Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Evgeni Malkin lace up their skates in the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to be a dangerous opponent for the Islanders or anyone for that matter.
The Penguins are the embodiment of “next man up” if I ever saw it.
Injuries to six key forwards? No problem. Injuries to six key forwards at the same time? We’ll call up Mark Donk and Buzz Flibbett and they’ll play like seasoned NHL veterans by their second shift. Two goalies with sub-.900 save percentages through the opening month of the season? They’ll turn it around and look like world-beaters in a month’s time.
It’s just so tiring, I swear. But Pittsburgh, often with a roster so debilitated by injuries that it looks on paper like it’s held together by popsicle sticks, duct tape, and the wispy hairs on Sidney Crosby’s upper lip, always seems to find a way.
The Islanders, mercifully, will play them one final time on Monday to wrap up the 2020-21 season series. I’d expect Barry Trotz will have his team looking much crisper then than they did on Saturday, but if they don’t then I expect we’ll probably end up with a similar result.
It’ll be nice not to have to see this team again for the remainder of the 2020-21 regular season because they have really given the Islanders a lot of trouble during this campaign. They’ve adapted their style of play so as to not be so vulnerable against teams who play the Islanders game, and it’s paid dividends for them this season.
As for the playoffs, well, the Islanders may not be done with Pittsburgh just yet. With how things are going, I bet Pittsburgh holds third place down in the East division, that’s if they don’t leapfrog the Islanders and jump into second. If that happens, it’s more than likely the Islanders will be on an opening-round collision course with the Penguins yet again.
That worked out well a couple of seasons ago, but this Penguins team has shaken me a little bit. If it happens, I definitely think it’ll be a more competitive series than it was in 2018-19. But there isn’t any time for Barry Trotz or the Islanders to think about that now. They need to focus on grabbing two points on Monday and salvaging the season series against the Penguins to some extent.