Gameday Conference Quarterfinals #6: @ New York Islanders

penguinsvsisles

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS @ New York Islanders

Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, 7:00 PM, Root Sports, NBC Sports, 105.9 the X

The Penguins have a 3 games to 2 lead in the series. One more win means they live to fight another day. One more game like Thursday’s effort means that the Penguins have a good chance to win one more game. If, however, they decide to get caught up in their own arrogance, as they did after Game 1, and it takes another three games to regain their composure,  this series could be over by the end of the weekend with a much different result.

Whether we have a “gut feeling” one way or the other about what this team will do today it doesn’t really matter, we’ve seen this fish before and we won’t celebrate anything until the battle is over. And even if the battle ends favorably for the Penguins that doesn’t mean the war will be anywhere near over. That sounds horribly cliche but guess what, it’s incredibly true.

The big storylines for the Penguins heading into tonight’s game is the emphasis on rest. Coach Dan cancelled an organized practice yesterday. We’re fine with that. On average, thanks to the addition of five players over the age of thirty in the last year, the Penguins are in fact the oldest team in the NHL. As such they SHOULDN’T need instruction on how to line up, what they need is rest and time in the film room. We’re fine with this decision.

In addition, for the first time in the series all 18 Penguins skaters played at least 10 minutes in Game 5. To further that, only 3 players even topped 20 minutes (the Pens 3 best defensemen, including Paul-Mart and Tanger, both of whom tend to play heavy minutes of both PP and PK time). That’s good TOI distribution. That’s what keeps your guys fresh for a deep playoff push. It doesn’t seem coincidental to us that Sid played far and away his best game since coming back in only 17 minutes of ice time. His conditioning has shown through a little bit in the first few games, and in Game 5, with the 4th line finally ready to play quality minutes, he looked sharp and focused, able to take over the game as it were.

cq5-toistats

Obviously we would find it really unlikely for the Pens to make any changes to the lineup from Game 5. Also hard to say what the Islanders will do but we can say without any fear of being wrong, Nabokov will still be in the goal for the Islanders and Frans Nielson was able to take the morning skate. Nielson hasn’t been quite the Pens killer that he normally is in the regular season, but after leaving the game earlier on Thursday we wouldn’t have been too upset to see him replaced in this game.

*UPDATE*: Huge post from the Pensblog on the Penguins’ history in Game 6’s.  You need to read it.

The race to one begins today. Go Pens.

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