The New York Islanders will begin their first round playoff matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, and while most of the focus on their chance to pull off an upset centers on the star power of John Tavares and Evgeni Nabokov it may actually be the third and fourth lines that have the biggest contribution. A mix of speed, depth scoring ability and strong physical play makes these Islanders lines very dangerous, and could give the Penguins fits.
The top line of Tavares, Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes accounts for most of the offense, but that hardly means the Islanders’ other lines are lacking in potential. The third line features speedy winger Michael Grabner, as well as Keith Aucoin and Colin McDonald. The trio combined for 29 goals this season, and all three players great scoring chances by working hard on the offensive end of the ice. The fourth line features bruisers Eric Boulton and Matt Martin, who are both capable of throwing the Penguins’ stars off their game with consistent physical play. Center Casey Cizikas has had quite a bit of success this season, and this line could be the one that wears the defense down to make things easier for the Tavares line.
There is no question the Penguins top two lines are loaded with talent, and their defense has proven capable of shutting down some of the league’s best players. That makes it even more important that the Islanders find ways to create traffic in front of Marc-Andre Fleury, and these two lines could be more than capable of doing that.