I think it’s safe to say that most Penguins fans — as well as most media folk who follow the NHL — expect the Pens to prevail in their first-round series against the Islanders.
But it’s not just safe to say, it is a truism that things have rarely gone well against the Islanders in the post-season.
In fact, only once (2013) have the Pens beaten the Isles in a playoff series. New York won the other 4.
Of course, the disappointments of 1975, 1982, and 1993 have nothing to do with what may occur over the next two weeks, but what happened in 2019 might.
Barry Trotz is still the coach, and the Islanders have many of the same players; some are legitimate Penguins killers.
You dread their names — Bailey, Nelson, Eberle, Lee, Cizikas, Clutterbuck, and Martin.
Yet, exactly how much of a “Penguins killer” is each one of those guys? Let’s take a look.
Matt Martin: Turns out Martin is more of an annoying agitator/tough guy. In 46 career games against the Pens, he has scored five goals, none of them game-winners. He did score a goal in the 2013 series that the Penguins won but none two years ago.
Cal Clutterbuck: Same deal with him. Just five goals in 38 games against Pittsburgh and none in 2019.
Casey Cizikas: Surprisingly, that line’s center hasn’t done much against the Penguins, either. Six goals in 43 games, none in the 2019 playoffs and two in 2013. Of course, those three can make an impact without scoring goals as long as they’re tiring out the opposition and, more importantly, annoying the star players. Still, none of them scored as many goals against the Pens as I had remembered. But these guys have.
Josh Bailey: 12 goals against the Pens is his most against any team (in 60 games), 2 of those shorthanded. In the playoffs two years ago, Bailey scored three goals, one game-winner.
Brock Nelson: In 33 games against Pittsburgh, he’s scored 14 goals, one shorthanded, and two game-winners. In the 2019 playoffs, he had three goals, two game-winners.
Jordan Eberle: In just 28 games, he has scored 12 times against the Penguins; one was a game-winner. In the four playoff games, he scored a goal in each. One was a game-winner.
Anders Lee: In 29 regular-season games, Lee has nine goals against the Pens, four game-winners. He was relatively quiet in the playoffs, with just one goal in 4 games. You don’t have to worry about him since he is injured. However...
Travis Zajac: In 70 games against Pittsburgh, as a member of the Devils, he has scored 19 goals, including two game-winners. He has never played against the Pens in the post-season and may not this time. Zajac has just one goal and one assist in 13 games since coming to the Islanders and could be a healthy scratch.
Matthew Barzal: I include him because he’s the Islanders’ best player, but he doesn’t strike me as a Penguins killer, maybe because he is supposed to be really good. In 19 games, he has five goals against the Penguins. He did not score in the playoffs but did have five assists.
One more for good measure
Career record against Pittsburgh: 6-5-4, 3.04 goals against, .899 saves percentage.
This season: 1-3-2, 8.97 save percentage
Playoffs: As a rookie in 2009, he was 3-4 against the Pens 3.04 .883 GA Varlamov is not a Penguins killer, but the Pens don’t own him, either, although he did give up four goals on 18 shots before being yanked in Game 7. That was 12 years ago.
So what does all of this mean? Even if the aforementioned Islanders do their damage against Pittsburgh, the Penguins should win.
Then we can examine Boston’s Penguins killers in 10 days or so.