New York Islanders: Round 1 Matchup Analysis

islanders, adam pelech

The New York Islanders have made the playoffs for the third season in a row. The franchise has taken a complete left turn since star player John Tavares left in free agency in 2018. Last year, the Islanders made a deep playoff run, making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Where they took the Stanley Cup Champions to 6 games. Only one Brock Nelson breakaway goal from a game 7. The Islanders didn’t have to face the Pittsburgh Penguins last year, as they got eliminated within the play-in round. This year, Hockey fans got spoiled once again and get a 2019 round 1 rematch between the two rivals. Anytime these two teams play against each other: blood boils, goals are scored, and bells are rung. This series will come down to which team is more well-rounded and better disciplined. Who has the advantage on paper?

Forwards: Penguins

If you have a player like Sidney Crosby on your team, your forward core is pretty good. Then you throw in stars like Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel, the core looks even better. A supporting cast with Jared McCann, Jeff Carter, Bryan Rust, Jason Zucker, and Kasperi Kapanen. The Penguins have some pretty good depth as well with guys like Brandon Tanev, Zach Aston-Reese, and Colton Sceviour. I believe this core is just more energetic than the Islanders. Don’t get me wrong, Mat Barzal and co. have the ability to light the lamps all night long, but they do struggle to score often. Advantage: Penguins.

Defense: Islanders

The Islanders probably have the best defensive core in the league: Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech, two great, underrated defenders who can go both ways. Nick Leddy and Noah Dobson are a great skaters who gives a huge advantage to the Isles in the offensive zone. Scott Mayfield is a good penalty killer, but he does miss his assignment a lot. And Andy Greene is just a solid old guy. The Penguins have a top defender of the decade in Kris Letang paired with a solid left defender in Brian Dumoulin on the first line. After that, the core drops off. Mike Matheson is on the second line, which says something. Hopefully, Pierre-Oliver Joseph breaks out soon.

Goalies: Islanders

Casey Desmith and Tristen Jarry have played great all year against the Islanders. But the William J. Jennings trophy runner-ups are just more skilled than the Penguins duo. Varlamov and Sorokin are a 1a/1b situation. Jarry is the 1, and Desmith is definitely the 2. Goalies on both sides will be tested greatly every single game. This is definitely a series to watch.

New York Islanders: Potential trade targets at the deadline

The New York Islanders are back in the trade market once again. But, this time, it’s not because of players underperforming or attitude problems. Just recently, it’s been announced that captain Anders Lee is out for the season with a lower-body injury and has been placed on LTIR. The Isles have been given his $7m cap hit in relief of this. This is the first time in a long time that the Islanders have cap room to go out and get a guy. These are 3 of my under-the-radar options. This list won’t include guys like Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmeri, or Fillip Forsberg. 

Rickard Rakell, F, Ducks

Rickard Rakell is just an awesome player. Rakell has shown that he can score 30+ goals and match that goal number with assists. He’s just about reaching the best of his playing days, and it’s about time for a change of scenery. He’s the best option for the Islanders out of the 3 in my mind. Rakell has got a cheapish cap hit, and he’s a gifted offensive player. The problem is, it’s gonna take a good amount to get him. Probably a high-level prospect, a first-round pick, and maybe even more. Also, the Islanders would have to sign him to a long-term deal very shortly. Rakell currently has 19 points in 30 games this season while playing on a line with a rookie and a 35-year-old center.

Bobby Ryan, F, Red Wings

Bobby Ryan is literally the perfect option if Anders Lee comes back for the playoffs. Ryan has revived his career, and no one has noticed cause he’s in Detroit. He’s a cheap player on a minimum deal, it won’t take much to get him. Ryan battled a lot of demons in Ottawa, but he’s found his footing in Detroit. I believe with the right system, aka Barry Trotz’s system, and the right players around him, aka JG Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom, Ryan can return to his early Ottawa playing days. The trade for Ryan would be as cheap as it gets, probably just a mid-level pick. Ryan currently has 13 points in 28 games this season.

Tanner Pearson, F, Canucks

Tanner Pearson has the stats and the cups to prove to you why he should be traded for. There is almost no explanation on why you shouldn’t get him other than the fact that he’s been having a down year, but the Vancouver Canucks just flat out suck right now. I don’t know how much it would take to get him, but I can see the Canucks taking a player like Komarov back the other way to get the deal done. Isles would most likely have to throw a prospect and a second-round pick as well into the mix. What do you think about these under the radar, guys?