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: Thomas Greiss will test free agency

Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders

The heartbreak continues for New York Islanders fans as Thomas Greiss’ agent confirms he will test free agency. This was 100% expected, though. The 4-year contract of Semyon Varlamov opened the casket for Greiss, and the signing of Ilya Sorokin laid him to rest. Thomas Greiss finishes his career with the Islanders as a top 5 goalie in franchise history. Greiss finishes with the 5th most wins, 6th most shutouts, and 5th most games as a goalie in franchise history. As much as his departure will be upsetting to Isles fans, you cannot look at it as a bad thing. Greiss is not an AHLer, but he’s not a 1A starter. He deserves a place where he can thrive and win a cup. Where are those places, though?

Washington Capitals

The Capitals are moving on from Braden Holtby in favor of Ilya Samsonov. But, a young goalie needs an old backup who can mentor him. Insert Thomas Greiss here. Greiss moves cross-division and becomes the backup to one of the best young goalies in the league. Greiss probably commands 30-35 games in Washington as Samsonov isn’t ready to play 50 games yet. This is the perfect signing for the Caps, and it’ll be cheap enough for them as well.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Thomas Greiss makes his return to Pittsburgh a whole lot better than what he once was. As the Penguins move on from Matt Murray, they need a backup for Tristan Jarry. Greiss again is the right guy to be a backup to a great young goalie. He’ll probably give them a discount as well. It makes sense for the Penguins and Greisser.

Vegas Golden Knights

Just a year ago, the combo of Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss won the William J. Jennings trophy. The trophy is given out to the goalies who play for the team who gave up the least amount of goals. Greiss reunites with his partner across America. This takes Vegas from dangerous to “oh my god, who is going to stop them.” Vegas would be dumb not to try and sign Greiss.