Islanders notebook: Rivalry with Penguins growing
In recent years, the rivalry between the New York Islanders and Penguins has been akin to a little brother demanding respect from an older, more accomplished sibling.
But that might be changing.
One of the subtexts of the Eastern Conference first-round series has been an increasing level of physical and verbal nastiness between the Atlantic Division rivals.
The teams have congregated after every whistle to exchange shoves and cross words to the enjoyment of Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic.
“I would be lying if I said it wasn't part of our game plan, what we want to do as a whole,” Hamonic said. “That's all part of playoff hockey. Hits are harder, the plays are more intense, everyone elevates their battle level.
“I know for myself, I like it.”
PK not OK
The numbers don't lie.
Through the first three games of the series, the Islanders have been unable to neutralize the Penguins' lethal power play. The Penguins are 6 for 13 on the power play. Sunday, the Islanders yielded three man-down goals on five power plays against, including Chris Kunitz's game-winner.
“Special teams (are) always a big factor in the outcome of your games,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “I thought (Sunday) that was the difference.”
Is the issue the Penguins' personnel or the Islanders' structure?
“It's a little bit of both,” Capuano said. “Your penalty kill obviously starts in goal and works its way out. We have a certain structure that we want to use.
“We took some wrong routes on our penalty kill. The entries for them were way too easy. They established zone time right away, and they were able to work the puck in the zone.
“When you allow that to happen, with the skill guys that they have, they're going to take advantage of it. To me, when I look at the penalty kill, it's the first eight seconds, it's the desperation. We won some key faceoffs tonight; we never cleared the puck 200 feet. That all comes back to haunt you, and that's what happened. Execution on the PK, from a details standpoint, has to be better.”
The Islanders have lost seven straight playoff games at Nassau Coliseum. The last time the Islanders won a playoff game at home was April 28, 2002, when they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-3, in Game 6 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. Toronto won that series in seven games.