Gameday Conference Quarterfinals #1: v. New York Islanders

penguinsvsisles

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS v. New York Islanders

Consol Energy Center, 7:30 PM, Root Sports, 105.9 The X

There is no boundary to the expectations that people have about this Pittsburgh Penguins team. There haven’t been for several years really, but this is something else. Merely making the playoffs isn’t the goal for these Penguins, but, perhaps dangerously, their opponent is in just such a situation. This team, already elite in nearly every metric, didn’t rest. They took a long hard look at themselves, they magnified every real or imagined insecurity, and they got better. Going back to the off season they strengthened their goaltending position, they traded away a guy set to become a distraction and brought in a perfect system player, perhaps the most undervalued on the team all year. And then it got really interesting. In the midst of a historic winning streak that saw the Penguins become the first franchise to go undefeated for an entire month they set themselves up for all the scrutiny you could dream of. In came former captain Brenden Morrow, in came the human monolith Douglas Murray, in came the eminently adaptable Jussi Jokinen, and then there was the insanely surreal acquisition of all-time great Jarome Iginla. You talk about putting yourselves in the crosshairs.

We can get ahead of ourselves as much as we want, but this team can only achieve immortality one game at a time. And number one starts tonight. It takes 16 wins. It won’t be easy, in most cases it won’t be pretty but this is the greatest time of the year. Heroes will rise, those that we expect, those that we don’t expect.

As much as anything that’s what tonight’s game is about. It’s the return to the playoffs, the desire to settle scores, to avenge wrongs, and to celebrate the joy of sports.

The New York Islanders have come to town, they have no playoff expectations. They have it easy. If they win one game that could be more than what a lot of so-called experts would have given them. And they have some talent. We’ve already written that John Tavares deserves to win the Hart Trophy. Matt Moulson has a tendency to destroy the Penguins, and how many breakaway goals on the PK will Michael Grabner get, 3 or more? Probably.

Before we talk about the Penguins lineup, another absolute must read from Mike Colligan of The Hockey Writers. If you’re into the brass tacks of how to play hockey and this doesn’t have you screaming at the top of your lungs in excitement, nothing will.

Unsurprisingly (to us) Sid and Brooks Orpik are both out of the lineup tonight. Sid was very veiled in his comments to the media, but what it comes down to is that he wasn’t cleared to play. Between a lack of ability to condition himself and the fact that he broke his jaw, it sounds like Sid is still another several days or at least a week away from really getting that clearance, and that’s okay. I would rather have Beau Bennett at 100% than Sid at 60%, especially because he could be a target for the Islanders if he isn’t playing at his best. Orpik is also out tonight, he has resumed skating in practice but has yet to resume work with a defensive partner. Looking at the pairings from the morning skate it seems likely that Deryk Engelland will get the call tonight in Brooksy’s absence. The lines from the morning skate are as follows:

Kunitz-Malkin-Neal
Morrow-Sutter-Cooke
Dupuis-Jokinen-Iginla
Glass-Adams-Bennett
Jeffrey-Crosby-Kennedy

Eaton-Letang
Martin-Engelland
Murray-Niskanen
Bortuzzo-Despres

Looks like no TK tonight, sick. Marc Andre Flower will be in the cage tonight.

Get your head straight, the race to 16 starts tonight. Go Pens.

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