Islanders display killer instinct Penguins lack
The Islanders outworked, outplayed and outcoached the Penguins to be in a position to sweep and win the series.
No one knew the Islanders would be in a position to sweep the Pittsburgh Penguins. Even the Islanders publicly and privately admit this would be their wildest dreams.
Yes, the Islanders could handle the Penguins based on them winning two of their four games in the season series, but to outclass them in the last two playoff games appears like this is too good to be true.
But here are the Islanders in a position to do the unthinkable against the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs on Tuesday night after taking a 4-1 Game 3 victory on Sunday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena. They have a 3-0 series lead, and this series might have been over for all intents and purposes.
Don’t dismiss the possibility of a sweep based on the Penguins showing their inability to compete and not having toughness against an Islanders team that has outplayed and outworked them in all three games.
The Islanders played like they meant it and believe it when it came to playing the Penguins in the first three games.
Dare we say this series is over? Yes, the Penguins deserve respect since they won two Stanley Cups in recent years. Yes, teams can come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the series. Four teams in NHL history pulled off that feat. But from watching the Islanders this season and in the playoffs, it seems far-fetched.
Maybe the Penguins win on Tuesday, but then again everyone thought they would win in a desperation game in Game 3 on their home ice, and they quit instead.
As soon as the Islanders tied it at 1 on a (who else?) Jordan Eberle’s goal at 13:22 in the first period, the Penguins looked so rattled and confused that they let Brock Nelson score on a 2-on-1 to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead. For the rest of the game, the Islanders control the action and the Penguins had no response. The Islanders scored two more goals in the third period on Leo Komarov’s goal and Anders Lee’s empty-netter.
The Penguins lacked championship mettle in this series, which is surprising since they won back-to-back Stanley Cups prior to last season. They let the Islanders get into their heads by goading them into fights rather than play hockey. They haven’t handled the Islanders’ style of grinding it out in all three games. They looked a step behind the Islanders as the series gone on.
If they can’t respond at home, what makes anyone think they can win the series? Chances are good that they could be swept in Game 4. Something is amiss with that team. They aren’t the team that they used to be, but they are a formidable team that has the know-how to win playoff games.
The Penguins received nothing from their stars in this series. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, Jake Guentzel and Kris Letang have been held to two goals and four assists in the series. Their power play lost spark after going 1-for-8 in this series, including going 0-for-3 with four shots in Game 3.
Credit the Islanders defense for slowing them down, and credit Robin Lehner for making saves after saves in this series, but championship teams figure it out, and so far the Penguins haven’t.
This series turned out to be as easy as the Islanders thought it would be. Game 1 was competitive enough that it went to overtime. Game 2 was competitive until the Islanders scored the second goal in the third period. Game 3 turned out to be a TKO for the Islanders.
Whenever the Islanders led late in the game, they finished the Penguins off by shutting them down defensively.
This showed right there the Islanders had the killer instinct to finish the Penguins off rather than have them believe they have a chance. Whenever the Penguins led, they never felt confident they could finish the Islanders off.
The Penguins appear like a team that is done playing for the season from watching them in Game 3. Maybe they show everyone something in Game 4, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if this is an Islanders’ sweep.
The Islanders look alive and eager to finish the series up on Tuesday. It’s hard to bet against them at this point with the way they are playing and the Penguins are playing.
The Islanders played serious, edgy hockey in all three games. The results prove it.
Swagger disappeared from the Penguins altogether while confidence appears more and more for this Islanders team.
It would be far-fetched now if the Penguins come back and win the series or even win one game.