Despite the results of Tuesday night's game and the Penguins being the top-seed in the Eastern Conference, I was expecting this series to be somewhat competitive. The first game may have been a dud, but last night delivered a little more of what I was expecting to see from this series. The Islanders have been one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference at controlling puck-possession at even strength and this was on full display last night as they really took it to the Penguins. They outshot them 36-23 during even strength play, had a huge advantage in five-on-five shot attempts and outplayed them in just about every area except for special teams.
The Isles had a territorial advantage in Game One, too but they weren't creating much offense out of any of their zone time. This changed completely last night.as the Isles were able to test Marc-Andre Fleury a lot more. They were still shooting from the outside a lot, but I noticed their transition game was much stronger and they did a much better job of getting to rebounds, which resulted in a few more chances and some lucky bounces to go with it.
Luck is probably the main reason why the Isles were able to tie this series tonight even though they were the better even strength team. They were trailing 3-1 at the first intermission and were able to tie the game thanks to some fortuitous bounces and a couple of soft goals in their favor. Three out of the four goals they scored weren't scoring chances and the only one that did qualify came after Matt Martin banged in a puck that took a weird carom off the end boards. You could make the argument that the Islanders created their own luck and would have scored eventually with how much they were outplaying the Penguins, but it's still hard to deny that they got some breaks there. Sometimes this is all you need, though and it could help the Islanders extend this series.
Let's remember that the Islanders are not a bad team and are capable of giving the Penguins a fair run for their money in a seven-game series with the talented group of forwards they have. Pittsburgh has more top-end talent on their roster, but they still can't afford to play the Islanders lightly and get outshot as badly as they did last night. Both teams are going to need to tighten up a bit defensively, though. The Penguins are a lot better than what they showed in Game Two and Evgeni Nabokov stability in net is just as questionable as Fleury's, so I see this series as one that can go either way despite Pittsburgh's bad underlying numbers.no comments