After Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, there were many that wondered if the Islanders would even score a goal in this series, let alone win a game. There’s no doubt that the Penguins are overwhelming favorites in this series.
And that’s probably the way it should be. Pittsburgh is one of the best, if not the best, team in the league on paper. The Islanders aren’t even supposed to be here. They’ve been a surprise team all year and barely managed to grab that eight seed after stumbling through the last week of the regular season.
However, that doesn’t mean that this is going to be a cakewalk for the Penguins. The Islanders proved that on Friday night. They managed a 4-3 win to even up the series at one and steal home ice advantage from Pittsburgh, while also spoiling Sidney Crosby‘s return.
Part of what made the Islanders successful on Friday night was the shuffling of the lines. The line combinations have remained pretty much the same for New York all year, particularly in the top six. That changed in Game 2, and the results were successful for the Islanders.
Rather than the typical combination of Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes next to John Tavares on the top line, Josh Bailey joined the latter two, while Moulson skated on the second line with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo. The result was more offensive success and a victory.
The Islanders don’t have the depth, the defense, or the goaltending that the Penguins do. They are probably not going to win this series. But they play very well as a team and have some very talented players, more so than many give them credit for. This isn’t a series that’s going four or five games. It’s going to take six or seven for the Pens to knock off the no. 8 seed New York Islanders.