One of the more interesting stories to follow in the NHL Playoffs surrounds the 8-seeded New York Islanders and their chances of upsetting the powerful Pittsburgh Penguins in their quarterfinal matchup in the first round. The Penguins won convincingly in the first game, but the following two have cast a lot of doubt over the Pens supposed dominance and called into question whether they can even make it out of the current round.
The cliché is to say that a 1-seed winning in overtime was that team “escaping” with the win. But in Pittsburgh’s case, they truly did escape Sunday’s showdown at the Nassau Coliseum and it’s a situation that is causing concern among Pens fans watching the series. Even with Sidney Crosby back in Game 2, Pittsburgh couldn’t close out the Isles and they nearly fell a game behind after inching past New York in overtime of Game 3.
So the very valid question is now: can the Isles battle back and shock the hockey world by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the NHL Playoffs?
The short answer is still no, but the long answer has a but attached to the end. No, the Isles can’t beat the Penguins at the moment, but if they continue to expand on their current style of play and continue to out-hustle the Pens they will eventually ware them down and end up making a series out of this.
Before this series, many noted that while the Penguins were the better team — and as of this moment they still are– no one should sleep on this quick and young Isles team that does have the capability to steal a game from Pittsburgh during the series. We saw New York take Game 2, which was away inside the CONSOL Energy Center no less, but was that the one game many pundits were referring to?
It’s a debate that has hockey fans split down the middle. On one end you have the conventional fans who recognize the Pens have more fire power and better talent but on the other end we have people really looking at what’s going on in this series. While Pittsburgh is stacked with talent and postseason expierience, they’re making mistakes all over the place and it’s going to catch up with them if it hasn’t already.
Through three games, the Pens have 21 giveaways with 19 of them coming in Game’s 2 and 3. In Game 1 the Pens gave the puck away twice and ended up winning 5-0. The 19 other giveaways came in games where they allowed a total of 8 goals, and that’s not a coincidence. The Islanders aren’t playing mistake-free hockey themselves, but they’re taking advantage of the mistakes Pittsburgh is making and its paying off.
The Isles got a bad break on a bad call in overtime when Brian Strait got questionably called for holding. The resulting 5-on-4 power play is what gave the Pens the chance to win, but had that call not been made, it’s very possible that the Isle find a way to win Game 3 and all of a sudden have a 2-1 lead on the No. 1 seed in the East.
That didn’t happen, but there’s still the notion that the Isles aren’t done making life hard for Pittsburgh. Game 4 is in New York on Tuesday and while it’s nice to fantasize about the Isles winning Game 3, we won’t find out until Game 4 if New York really has the ability to bounce back and take control of this series before it heads back to the Steel City.