Penguins Notebook: A Series Against The Islanders Is Never Easy

Some thoughts from Bob Grove before the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs start

Bob Grove
April 09, 2019 - 8:49 am

© Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Related: Grove: What To Watch For In Penguins/Islanders Match up

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - Some random notebook items ahead of the Penguins’ first-round series against the New York Islanders. . .

  • The Penguins saw first-hand recently how the energy and emotion of young players who are making their first Stanley Cup playoff run can positively impact those on the team who have been through it all before. It was Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl and Matt Murray in 2016 and then Jake Guentzel, Carter Rowney and Scott Wilson in 2017.But you don’t have to be a 20-something to have that same effect, as the Penguins learned from Ron Hainsey in those years as well. Pittsburgh might expect a similar impact from both ends of the age spectrum this spring.Jared McCann and Teddy Blueger have never skated in a Stanley Cup playoff game, and Marcus Pettersson has played in just four. Veterans Jack Johnson (23 GP), Erik Gudbranson (13), Garrett Wilson (6) and Nick Bjugstad (5) have just a little more experience, but they share something with those younger players: none of them have ever won a Cup playoff series.

 

  • Guentzel’s adaptation to the playoffs has been remarkable, given his 23 goals in 37 career post-season games. How remarkable? Here’s the goal totals through the first 37 playoff games for some others: Mario (32), Kevin Stevens (21), Sidney Crosby (19), Evgeni Malkin (16), Jaromir Jagr (9).It helps an awful lot, of course, that Guentzel has had Crosby playing beside him. Those two did some masterful work together this season, when Guentzel delivered 40 goals to take his career regular season points-per-game average up to 0.77. His playoff average is 1.14 points-per-game, an sizeable increase of .37 from his regular season number.But among the seven current Penguins who average more points in the playoffs than they do in the regular season, Guentzel’s increase is not the largest. That distinction belongs to defenseman Jack Johnson, who averages 0.33 points in his regular season career and 0.91 in the playoffs, a gain of .58. Johnson is 5-16-21 in 23 career playoff games.The other Penguins who average more points in the playoffs, with their gain: Nick Bjugstad (+.32), Brian Dumoulin (+.09), Wilson (+.08), Phil Kessel (+.07) and defenseman Justin Schultz (+.06).

 

  • It would surprise no one with a sense of history if this series produces plenty of drama, the kind that goes above and beyond even what’s expected in the playoffs.Three of the four previous playoff series between the teams were decided with an overtime goal, two of those in the winner-take-all final game of the series, while the fourth series was decided in the final minutes of a Game 7. Defenseman Brooks Orpik won the last playoff meeting with the Islanders by scoring at 7:49 of Game 6 on Long Island in 2013. But the Islanders, of course, won the three previous series, thanks to Ed Westfall in 1975 (5:18 to play in the third period of Game 7), John Tonelli in 1982 (6:10 of overtime in Game 5) and David Volek in 1993 (5:16 of overtime in Game 7).

 

  • Despite that Orpik goal, and an overtime road goal by Chris Kunitz in Game 3 of that series, Nassau County Coliseum has not been kind to the Penguins come playoff time. Pittsburgh has won just four of its 12 playoff games in that building. Even the vaunted 1993 Pittsburgh team lost two of its three games there, including the Game 6 loss that pushed the series toward its incredible conclusion.One thing that has remained constant throughout those 12 games is the Islanders’ ability to score. They’ve scored four or more goals in nine of those 12 home playoff games against Pittsburgh, and they’re averaging 5.2 goals over the last five.

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