The New York Islanders are on their way to the playoffs for the third year in a row. Their opening-round matchup will be against the Pittsburgh Penguins who they struggled against during the regular season.
The 2021 Islanders finished just 2-4-2 against Pittsburgh this year in their eight matchups. Since the last time these two teams played, we’ve seen the Pens climb up to the one seed in the East while the Isles dropped to fourth.
With a repeat of the 2019 opening series just two years later, here are five predictions for the series:
1) JG Pageau will lead the Islanders in goals
Normally, your third-line center isn’t going to be your leading goal scorer. But the Isles don’t have some average center manning that third line. In the playoffs last year, Pager had eight goals to his name.
I’m predicting that he will have four in this series, leading the way for the Islanders in terms of all goal scorers.
2) Jeff Carter will cause more problems than Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin
The Islanders just two years ago locked up Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin fairly well in the playoffs. Crosby had just one point in four games while Malkin was much more solid with three points (1 goal, 2 assists).
In this series, it’s going to be the veteran Carter who is the thorn in the side for the Islanders. Since joining Pittsburgh he has nine goals in 14 games and in 73 playoff games with the Kings, he put up 26 goals. He’s been known to do it in the past and I think he does it again.
3) Semyon Varlamov posts two shutouts
The offense isn’t this team’s strength. If they’re going to win this series, they are going to need Semyon Varlamov to steal a game or two, Varly during the regular season wasn’t great against Pittsburgh allowing three goals or more in five of his seven starts.
Clearly, they’ve had his number in the regular season but this is faith in Varlamov taking his game to the next level come playoff time.
4) Ryan Pulock scores an OT game-winner in the series
The Islanders didn’t have much luck against Pittsburgh in overtime this season losing twice. But, with the Isles in the playoffs comes the expectation of playoff hockey. In Game 4 of the series, Ryan Pulock will win it with a seeing-eye clapper from the blue line.
Pulock only had two goals during the regular season, a career-low for him. One of the two goals though were a game-winner.
5) Islanders win in seven games
New York will take Game 1, 2-0 before dropping the next two. With the home faithful behind them in Game 4, you’ll have a Ryan Pulock OT goal to tie the series back up at two. The Penguins will hand the Islanders a 4-1 loss in Game 5 before the Isles win the next two, including another Semyon Varlamov shutout in Game 7.
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Game 1: 2-0 Islanders
Game 2: 3-1 Penguins
Game 3: 2-1 Penguins
Game 4: 3-2 Islanders (OT)
Game 5: 4-1 Penguins
Game 6: 4-2 Islanders
Game 7: 3-0 Islanders