For the first time since 2016 the New York Islanders earned a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs; however they would have a First Round series against fellow Metropolitan Division Rival Pittsburgh Penguins who have won three Stanley Cups since 2009, including back-to-back in 2016, and 2017, and were in their thirteenth consecutive post-season appearance.
Although the Islanders did have home ice, many people doubted New York’s chances solely due to lack of experience, and the fact that the Penguins have one of the most talented offenses in the NHL.
However the Islanders were able to not only defeat the Penguins in the First Round but did so with a four game sweep.
Here are three reasons why the Islanders were able to sweep the Penguins.
After finally taking down the Penguins last season, Barry Trotz and the Capitals were able to win Washington’s first Stanley Cup.
Trotz would end becoming the Coach of the Islanders shortly after this and has done an incredible job with this team.
The Islanders allowed the least goals against in the entire NHL this season and continued that strong defensive play in the First Round allowing Sidney Crosby only to record an assist, Evgeni Malkin a goal and two assists, and Phil Kessel a goal, and an assist.
With Barry Trotz behind the bench you have to wonder how far this team can go now that they got the monkey off their back in defeating Pittsburgh.
Matt Murray v.s. Robin Lehner:
Like we saw in the Lightning-Blue Jackets series, goaltending played a huge role in this series as well.
Two time Stanley Cup champion Matt Murray has had his struggles over the course of his career thus far, however this series was not his best performance.
Murray faced 127 shots, and recorded a goals against average of 3.02, along with a save percentage of .906; both of these stats are below the top ten in goalies in the playoffs.
Lehner on the other hand faced 136 shots, and still managed to only allow an insane 1.47 goals against per game, along with recording a save percentage of .956; both the best of any goalie who has played in the playoffs this year.
Islanders Offense Stepped Up:
New York had a cast of players step up and produce some points while Lehner was a brick wall in net this series.
Jordan Eberle recorded four goals, and two assists; this is the strongest hockey we have seen Eberle play recently, if not period.
Brock Nelson tallied three goals, along with Josh Bailey who scored three goals, and an assist.
Last year’s Calder Trophy winner Mathew Barzal even made his presence known by recording five assists in four games.
This team led by Barry Trotz has proven it can be an extremely dangerous team, and incredibly efficient on Defense allowing just six goals against to the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games.
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