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Five Q’s: Penguins-Islanders series preview

May 1, 2013, 11:47 AM EDT

TavaresOrpik

1. When will Sidney Crosby return?

This question will linger over this series until No. 87 is on the lineup card.

Crosby has been out of action since Mar. 30 — when he suffered a broken jaw against the Islanders, ironically enough — and the dynamic of this matchup depends largely on his availability.

Why? Crosby’s scoring exploits against the Isles, mostly.

In 41 career games, Sid the Kid’s racked up 75 points against New York — the most he’s scored against any NHL club.

He also has a history of making big returns against the Isles. In Nov. 2011, he triumphantly returned from a concussion by scoring four points (2G, 2A) in a 5-0 whitewashing — his first game back after a 10-month layoff.

Update: Crosby has officially been ruled out for Game 1.

2. Is it Tavares’ time?

The second major subplot in this series will be the playoff debut of John Tavares, the 22-year-old phenom that led the Isles in scoring this year and has garnered serious Hart Trophy consideration.

This has been the most successful campaign of Tavares’ four-year career. He dominated the Swiss League during the lockout and was a point-a-game player in Team Canada’s Spengler Cup win.

When NHL play resumed, he continued that point-per-game clip and finished as the league’s third-leading goalscorer (28), pushing the Isles to their first playoff appearance since 2007.

All that said, this is Tavares’ first postseason. It’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to the increased physical play and (presumably) being shadowed for the entirety of the series.

3. Can Iginla and Morrow be difference-makers?

Pens GM Ray Shero was the undisputed power broker at April’s trade deadline, bringing in a quartet of veterans: Jussi Jokinen, Douglas Murray, Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla.

It’s the latter two that will draw the most attention.

Morrow, 34, and Iginla, 35, are both looking for their first Stanley Cups, but will be counted on to play different roles than they did in Dallas and Calgary, respectively.

They used to be captains and front-line players. Now, they’re being asked to provide veteran experience and compliment a forward group featuring young stars like Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal.

That’s not to say there aren’t big expectations.

Iginla has 49 points in 54 career playoff games and led the Flames to the 2004 Cup final, scoring 13 times.

Morrow’s last playoff run saw him notch 15 points in 18 games as he led the Stars to the Western Conference finals.

4. Will Fleury bounce back?

There are two Marc-Andre Fleurys.

The first is the acrobatic, flair-for-the-dramatic guy that backstopped the Pens to the 2009 Stanley Cup.

The other is the shaky, erratic guy that finished last postseason with a 4.63 GAA and .834 save percentage.

If Pittsburgh has any hopes of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Mug, the first Fleury will need to show up.

The 28-year-old acknowledged as much in speaking with NHL.com.

“That ['09 Cup] was a lot more fun than last year, that’s for sure,” he explained. “But you just learn from it. You learn from what happened in the past and try to use it to improve and be ready for these playoffs coming up.”

5. Can the Isles steal one (or more) on the road?

The top-seeded Penguins have home ice advantage, which might suit New York just fine.

The Isles have been road warriors this year, posting a 14-6-4 record away from Nassau — the third best road mark in the Eastern Conference.

The No. 8 seed knows that in order to capture this series, it’ll need to win at least one game at Consol Energy Center, where the Penguins are a stellar 18-6-0 this year.

It’s a challenge head coach Jack Capuano recognizes, and is ready to take on.

“[Pittsburgh] is ranked where they are for a reason. They’ve got some of the best players in the world,” Capuano told CBS New York. “But your ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup.

“If you’re going to get to the Stanley Cup you’ve got to beat the best teams.”

For all the first-round playoff previews, click here.

  1. eigglesnosuperbowls - May 1, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    Here a preview for ya sidney whines for an abundance of power play time and gets it making nbc happy the ilanders are fighting a multifront war pen refs nbc

    • miketoasty - May 1, 2013 at 12:09 PM

      Do people actually watch NBC anymore? 90% of the time it’s just Pens bashing or building up the other team. Very rarely do I hear them say anything positive about the Pens even on a great save by Fleury it’s more that he just “Got lucky” while the shooter had one hell of a shot that no one else could do.

    • 19to77 - May 1, 2013 at 12:53 PM

      I like how a month ago you were a giant sycophant towards the Pens, singing their praises and pretending you respected them. What was the point of that, eiggles?

      • eigglesnosuperbowls - May 1, 2013 at 1:26 PM

        What part of my post is not true

      • eigglesnosuperbowls - May 1, 2013 at 1:30 PM

        Havent you ever flattered someone you dispised because it felt good lying to them

      • President Charles Logan - May 1, 2013 at 7:19 PM

        cause he’s biopolar and knows virtually nothing about hockey

      • President Charles Logan - May 1, 2013 at 7:20 PM

        bipolar i meant *** iggles that is

    • hockeywithdrawal - May 1, 2013 at 1:37 PM

      Hey bud! I just got my 2013 playoff t-shirt! Designed it myself this year – tell me what you think…it’s orange and black, and on the front it has this really confused looking Penguin, kind of doing a shrug. On the back, it has the number 75, and up where a name would be it says “WHERE YINZ JAGS AT?”

      Down at the bottom in smaller print it says “We Still Don’t Like You”.

      Thoughts? I’m loving it…

      • eigglesnosuperbowls - May 1, 2013 at 2:43 PM

        Thats great that u updated your wardrobe i guess your old wranglers from 1975 will look good with it now go win a cup big mouth viva los 1975 ohhhhhhh

    • fbothharbaughs - May 1, 2013 at 4:16 PM

      How’s this for a preview? The Flyers… no wait….

      1975

      • eigglesnosuperbowls - May 1, 2013 at 6:41 PM

        Viva los 1975

    • tk1966 - May 1, 2013 at 8:28 PM

      I’m was almost convinced that English is eiggle’s second language, but then it occured to me that I’d be giving him too much credit to even think could know more than one.

      Translation for eiggle: you rite weird talk no good sense you no no making need you learn words more comma periods too

  2. jpelle82 - May 1, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    1. doesnt matter
    2. no
    3. yes
    4. yes
    5. no

    • bcisleman - May 1, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      Actually:

      1. No
      2. Possibly
      3. No
      4. No
      5. Yes

  3. Stiller43 - May 1, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    Not only are the pens 18-6 at home, but they started out 3-4 there, so theyre 15-2 in their last 17 at home…good luck Isles!

    I would love to have crosby out there, and i absolutely think the pens need him to go deep in the playoffs/win the cup…BUT, i think the pens could take care of the isles in 4-5 games without sid in the lineup. The pens have pretty much everything on their side…skill, experience, etc…

    Also, I wonder if there is a sliver of a thought at all given to starting Vokoun for this series…i saw somewhere that this year, voky’s 3-0 against the isles with a GAA under 1 and fleurys 1-1 with a GAA around 3.5…not huge sample sizes, but it would weigh on my mind if they get a few quick goals tonight. Anyway, LETS GO PENS!

    • bcisleman - May 1, 2013 at 1:22 PM

      Only way Pens make this a short series is if Flower plays like he did 4-5 years ago. Vokoun has good regular season stats vs the Isles but VERY limited playoff experience–only two series in two different years the last of which was in 2007. He lost both series.

      Against this you have Nabby with 80 playoff games and a .913 sv%. He led the Sharks to the Conference Finals twice.

      The goaltending matchup will be the key to this series. If Flower is on, it could be short. If not, it could get VERY interesting with or without Sid.

  4. capsrockva - May 1, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    Let’s Go Isles

    • jpelle82 - May 1, 2013 at 12:18 PM

      lol…you should worry about your own series man. good luck there…i hope the caps win. i sure dont want my pens to have to see the rangers in the second round or deeper.

      • barkar942 - May 1, 2013 at 12:28 PM

        Don’t worry- the Isles will send the pens packing in 6.

  5. tfaltin - May 1, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    Nothing would please the rest of the hockey world more than to see the arrogant Penguin fans mourn a first round exit to the up-and-coming Islanders. (Emphasis on the arrogant ones because I know there are some decent Pittsburgh fans out there). You think Mario would threaten to quit the league again?

  6. Stiller43 - May 1, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Lol pens went 4-1 against the isles with people in and out of the lineup all season. Now theyre pretty much healthy (as healthy as missing the best player in the world due to injury can be), and you suddenly expect the isles to take 4 of 5 or 6? Dont hold your beath.

    Heading into last years playoffs, i did NOT want to face the flyers, and when the matchup was made, i predicted the pens would lose. The isles, unlike the flyers (last year), do not have the pens number.

    • bcisleman - May 1, 2013 at 1:27 PM

      You are forgetting the REASON the Flyers took out the Pens. It had nothing to do with them having the Pens’ number. It was because Flower stunk. He has stunk the last three seasons in the playoffs and that is why your team has been unable to return to the Finals. The key to beating the Isles and going very deep if the Pens do beat them is Flower.

      • jpelle82 - May 1, 2013 at 1:57 PM

        if he plays bad, he will be on a short leash. isles will need a lot of luck either way.

      • hockeywithdrawal - May 1, 2013 at 2:11 PM

        Agree in part – but the Pens lack of discipline last year put the Flyers on the power play a LOT…he became a shooting gallery. Also the defense did not take the slot away last year – if you watch tonight, only ONE d-man will chase the puck into the corners…and the center will cover the front WITH the other d-man. They were chasing and leaving the half the net front open last year – they were shooting in and killing Fleury from point blank. The guy’s nerves had to be shot.

      • jpelle82 - May 1, 2013 at 2:20 PM

        eaton, murray make a big difference in this year and last year’s team. orpik looks like he will be nursing something as he was last year though. comparing last year’s defense and goaltending to this years is like apples and oranges.

  7. kicksave1980 - May 1, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    Hopefully it’s a good series. I don’t really have a rooting interest in this series, and I like players from both sides. I’m happy for Islanders fans that they’re finally back in the playoffs. They deserve a good playoff showing after all this time.

  8. micklethepickle - May 1, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    I know it’s completely crazy, but as a fairly neutral fan (Go Caps!) I believe the Isles will make a series of it. It’s hard to say they’ll WIN the series, but I fully believe NYI is being underestimated by everyone except NYI fans, haha.

    Also, other than the 1 sane Pens fan (Stiller43), all I hear is how it’s “Cup or bust” for PIT; I don’t believe that’s the case. I also have about as much confidence in Crosby’s ability to lead his team to a championship as I did last year – none at all. Malkin, on the the other hand, has done it before…

    Hope it’s a good series, and if the Isles are getting blown out, remember that game in Feb of 2011 (?) when they beat the Penguins’ brains in. Ah, fight night in the playoffs; only way NBC could top last year’s PHI/PIT ratings!

  9. Stiller43 - May 1, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    Last year, flower was the only option as brent johnson was TERRIBLE. Vokoun has represented himself very well so far, and i believe fleury will have a relatively short leash…

    If he allows 4 goals tonight and maybe 2 quick ones friday, i bet he’s pulled. That was never an option last year

  10. jacketsfan7 - May 1, 2013 at 3:27 PM

    Don’t forget , we got Vokoun

  11. jonkchar - May 1, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    Fleury looks relaxed. he will win this series. NYI should have some legit offense and goaltending, but I don’t know anything about their defense. Consider this series Tavares’ & co. initiation into the elite

  12. dtob79 - May 1, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    Pens in 4.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. D. Alfredsson (2212)
  2. B. Bishop (2089)
  3. M. Fleury (1883)
  4. J. Schultz (1725)
  5. D. Krejci (1721)
  1. J. Boychuk (1670)
  2. E. Staal (1607)
  3. C. Anderson (1525)
  4. R. Lehner (1479)
  5. D. Setoguchi (1308)