When most Penguins fans saw the New York Islanders, very few feared it was going to be a long series. I, like most, fell under that category.
On paper, the Pittsburgh Penguins looked like they were going to run all over the Islanders. Unfortunately for every Penguin fan out there, that hasn’t been the case.
The Penguins dominated in game one with a 5-0 win and the series looked like it was going to be an absolute runaway by the Penguins.
With Sidney Crosby returning to the lineup for game two, it didn’t seem like the Penguins could lose. The Penguins dominated again, scoring two early first period goals. Somewhere during that game, the series shifted and the Penguins were no longer dominating the play. The Penguins ended up losing game two, much to the despise of the hometown crowd.
The Penguins escaped game three with a 5-4 win in overtime in Long Island. Game four was played in the same style, but this time the Penguins lost 6-4.
What happened to the team that dominated game one? Right now this team is becoming a paper champion and they’re failing on the ice. They have everything you could want in a team. We could start with Marc Andre Fleury; he’s the team’s franchise goaltender, yet during these playoffs he has been everything but that. Fleury has been absolutely awful in net for the Penguins during this playoff series. Since the ’09 cup run, Fleury hasn’t had a save percentage above .900. His save percentages in the last 4 years of playoffs have been .891, .899, .834 and .891. When you’re a 5.8 million dollar goaltender, this can’t be happening. This is a perfect opportunity for a guy like Thomas Vokoun to get his chance in the series. Depending on how that goes, this could be his series the rest of the way. Vokoun holds a 3-0 record this season against the Islanders and holds a .970 save percentage and .90 goals against them. He was brought in for moments like this.
Although it’s easy to blame the goaltender, the defense in front of him hasn’t been doing him any favors. The Penguins inability to get the puck out of the zone has led to numerous goals. The biggest problem is turnovers in their own zone. The Pens are giving up the puck on a silver platter. The Penguins lost game four because of a Malkin turnover in the third period with less than seven minutes in the game.
Malkin and the rest of the team need to stop taking so many ill-advised penalties. Malkin will always be his own worst enemy. He’s leading in points, but how many bad passes or penalties can he take? He needs to stop letting teams get in his head. He just needs to stand up for himself, be a better leader and not fight at the end of game or take bad penalties.
All that being said, I still think this is the Penguins series to lose. This team is too deep with scoring to lose out in the first round. Sidney Crosby seems to be at the top of his game and he’s making the players around him better. Dan Bylsma needs to make adjustments and fast. The Islanders have been a more desperate team and Pittsburgh has to match it. I am fearful for anyone in the Penguins organization if they lose in the first round again, especially with the group of players their general manager, Ray Shero, brought in. Shero did his job, now the team has to do theirs.
At the end of the day, I think this will be remembered as a scary series. Eighth seeds are no longer pushovers in the NHL. It doesn’t matter if the Penguins get it done in six or seven games, they have to win this series.