Pittsburgh Penguins (45-27-7-97) vs. New York Islanders (34-35-10-78)
09-10 Season Series: Penguins lead 3-1 09-10 Home vs. NY Islanders: Penguins lead 2-0 All-Time vs. NY Islanders: Penguins lead 93-88-27 All-Time Home vs. NY Islanders: Penguins lead 53-36-16 Overtime: Penguins lead 8-3-15 Shootout: Penguins trail 2-5
New York is going to miss the postseason dance for the third consecutive season and fourth time in five years since the NHL returned from the lockout. Now that we have the negative out of the way, there is plenty of positive to report from Long Island. Already the Islanders have improved by 17 points, and at midseason they spent a week inside the playoff field. New York is a team on the rise behind the development of John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson. Expect the Islanders to seriously challenge for a playoff spot next season.
Matt Moulson – With three games remaining in the regular season Moulson has a chance to crack the 30-goal mark in his first season with the Islanders, as he continues to lead the team with 27 goals. Perhaps most impressively about that total is the fact that 22 of those goals have been scored at even strength. If Moulson is going to hit 30 goals he is going to have to shake off a recent slump which has seen him score just once in his past nine games. Moulson has also been clutch for New York, leading the team with five game-winning tallies.
John Tavares – There is no question that Tavares has been streaky during his first NHL season, but that should be expected from any 19 year old, even when they are the No. 1-overall draft pick. Right now Tavares is riding a hot wave, notching 13 points (4G-9A) over his previous 10 contests, including a career-high five points against Vancouver on March 16. Tavares leads the Islanders in scoring with 49 points (22G-27A), a total which ranks second among all rookies. He is tied with Matt Duchene for the lead among first-year players with 10 power-play markers.
Josh Bailey – New York has plenty of reasons to be excited heading into next season, with Bailey chief among them. The 20-year-old has watched his offensive production take a spike forward in year two, as he has doubled his goal-scoring total from seven to 15. He leads the team with a 13.6 shooting percentage. Bailey is not the most physical player, but he does do a good job taking care of business in his own zone, especially for a second-year guy. Bailey has gone cold lately with just two points (1G-1A) over his last 10 contests.
Sean Bergenheim – There aren’t too many players on a bigger role right now than Bergenheim, who has shaken off a rough start to the season to ride a five-game scoring streak which has seen him post eight points (4G-4A). Thanks to his recent performance Bergenheim is just one point shy of tying last season’s career high of 24. Bergenheim isn’t afraid to mix it up in the corner, ranking third (tied) on the team with 122 hits. Bergenheim scored the tying goal for the Islanders during their 3-2 victory over the Penguins on Nov. 27.
Blake Comeau – Another youngster coming into his own for the Islanders is the 24-year-old Comeau, who has watched his offensive totals rise for a third-consecutive season. Comeau has more than doubled his previous career best goal total to 17 from seven last year, while his 35 points are 10 more than he picked up in ’08-09. Islanders head coach Scott Gordon recently told Yahoo! Sports he is most impressed with the way Comeau has improved his consistency in all facets of his game this season. Comeau is on a four-game point streak which has seen him post seven points (5G-2A). Trent Hunter – Hunter continues to earn a living against the Penguins, picking up four points (2G-2A) in the four contests. The abrasive winger, who is tied for third on the team with 122 hits, has hit double figures in goal scoring for the sixth straight season despite dressing for just 58 games. Hunter is very good around the cage where he likes to pick up a majority of his goals. Frans Nielsen – Nielsen is having a strong finish to his second full NHL campaign, posting four points (2G-2A) over his past four contests. He tallied the game-deciding goal in the shootout victory over the Canadiens on Tuesday. Nielsen has established career highs across the board offensively, while also pacing all New York forwards with a plus-7 rating. The 25-year-old looks capable of growing into a capable second/third-line center.
Kyle Okposo – While Tavares figures to serve as New York’s heart moving forward, Okposo looks as though he will be the soul. Already an alternate captain at age 21, Okposo sets a great example at both ends of the rink despite this being just his second full season. He ranks second on the team in both assists (30) and points (47), while at the same time serving as one of the top penalty killers on the squad. Further illustrating his work away from the puck is his team-high 75 takeaways. Okposo ranks third on the team with an average of 20:26 minutes of ice time per contest.
Josh Bailey Sean Bergenheim
Trent Hunter Kyle Okposo
Jack Hillen – In addition to their talent up front, New York is also beginning to develop a pretty underrated group of blueliners to match their offensive talent. One of those players is Hillen. The 24-year-old rearguard has seen his minutes increase over the course of the season due to injuries, trades and his continued improvement. Hillen is part of the new breed of post-lockout defensemen who rely more on their skating and passing skills than they do their size. He ranks second on the team in average ice time at 20:44 per contest while he is tied with Mark Streit for the team lead with 129 blocked shots.
Andrew MacDonald – Another young, smooth-skating blueliner earning rave reviews for his play is the 23-year-old MacDonald. A fixture on the back end since his Nov. 16 recall, MacDonald leads the team with a plus-9 rating. Although he has posted just six points (1G-5A) in 43 NHL games, MacDonald has a pedigree which suggests the ability to grow into a No. 2/3 scoring option from the blue line. He has finished with an even or plus rating in 35 of his 43 games.
Mark Streit – There aren’t too many power-play quarterbacks in the game better than Streit, who ranks second to only Washington’s Mike Green among defensemen with nine man-advantage tallies. Streit once again ranks as one of the highest-scoring blueliners with 44 points (11G-33A) in 79 games. However, Streit is more than just an offensive specialist. Anybody who watched Streit throw his 6-foot frame around at the 2010 Winter Olympics with Team Switzerland knows he doesn’t avoid the rough stuff. He also leads the Islanders with 129 blocked shots and ranks second with 74 takeaways. Streit ranks seventh in the league with an average ice time of 25:44 minutes per contest.
Andrew MacDonald Mark Streit
Martin Biron – A huge reason why the Islanders have been able to post a 9-6-2 mark since the Olympic break has been the way Biron has managed to turn his season around. Mired in the No. 3 role with Rick DiPietro healthy and Dwayne Roloson standing on his head, Biron began the season just 2-11-2 over his first 15 decisions, but has gone 7-1-2 since. A five-time 20-plus game winner, Biron is currently on a four-game winning streak.
Dwayne Roloson – New York has asked a lot out of the 40-year-old netminder this season, forcing him to face an average of 31.1 shots per game. Despite the heavy workload Roloson has posted an outstanding season between the pipes, winning 20 games for the third time in four seasons and the fourth time overall. Roloson is signed through 2010-11, giving the Islanders a proven playoff performer to lead them into next season as the team continues to take huge strides toward becoming a postseason contender. Roloson backstopped the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006.
Martin Biron Dwayne Roloson
Dylan Reese - Upper St. Clair native Dylan Reese became the ninth player born in western Pennsylvania to reach the NHL when he made his debut against the Atlanta Thrashers on March 4. The 25-year-old blueliner has been very impressive since, picking up four points (2G-2A) and posting a plus-7 rating in 16 games. Reese, a Harvard graduate, was acquired by the Islanders at the trading deadline. He is currently riding a three-game point streak (1G-2A), during which time he has a plus-8 rating.
"Our team all year long has competed hard. We may have been out-talented some nights, but I don't think we had too many nights when we were out-battled or out-worked, and there's no reason for that to change now.” - New York head coach Scott Gordon talking to Yahoo! Sports about the high compete level of the young Islanders squad.
"Right now I think even though we're out, everybody's loose. We're playing with more of a positive atmosphere with winning games. When we're down and we still get the win, I think it shows that this team has grown." - Islanders forward Sean Bergenheim speaking about the growth of the team to Yahoo! Sports following a 4-3 shootout victory over the Canadiens on Tuesday.
"It was a very tough start to the season. After I sat out awhile and Ricky (DiPietro) came back (in January), it was really tough. But I just went and got back to the fun of playing." - Islanders goaltender Martin Biron talking to Newsday about his run of success since the beginning of March.
73.5 New York has the league’s second-worst road penalty killing unit, killing off just 73.5 percent of the penalties assessed to them
11-21-7 The Islanders have picked up just 29 road points this season, the third-fewest total in the NHL