Earlier we looked at the Western Conference first round match-ups. Now we're bringing the beloved (and better) Eastern Conference all up in your face. Here we go:
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (8) New York Islanders
Poor, poor New York Islanders. It's the first time they've made the playoffs since 2007, where they lost to Buffalo in 5 games in the first round. Now, 6 years later, they get to play one of the best NHL rosters put together, potentially in the history of the NHL. Yeah, that's a pretty big statement but you're looking at a roster with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla (sadface) and Brenden Morrow - and that list only contains three players who started the season with a C on their jersey.
Pittsburgh is a disgusting team. They finished the year first in the NHL in goals per game, scoring 3.38 goals per game. They also finished the year second in the NHL on the power play, converting 24.7% of all of their power plays. They are an offensive machine. Look at their goal scorers:
Chris Kunitz: 22
James Neal: 21 (in 40 games)
Pascal Dupuis: 20
Sidney Crosby: 15 (in 36 games; and has 41 assists)
Jarome Iginla: 14
And yet they don't have a large amount of guys who have played 48 games. The team was littered with injuries and still dominated the Eastern Conference in the second half of the season. When Evgeni Malkin has 9 goals, but the team led the NHL with 162 goals scored this season - it's a telling sign about depth.
Ah, depth. It's a funny thing how things shake out at the end of the season. Heading into the end of March, depth was an issue with Pittsburgh. Suddenly, Ray Shero does Ray Shero things and brings in Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray and Jussi Jokinen and depth is no longer a problem.
I guess you can make a case for the Penguins defense being an issue, but even then they're 12th in the NHL is GA/G (2.48) and have missed their best shutdown defenseman in Paul Martin for most of the season.
If you want to search for a problem, you could look at Marc-Andrew Fleury, who posted a 2.39 GAA and a SV% of .916 - but even then you're talking about respectable stats. If he had Tuukka Rask like stats, this team may not have lost a game all season (kidding, maybe).
Oh yeah, there's also the Islanders in this match-up, but not for long.
Prediction: Penguins in 4
After the jump...the rest of the Eastern Conference...
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