Islanders not the first team to smother Penguins in playoffs
The extent to which the New York Islanders have suffocated the Pittsburgh Penguins in their first-round playoff series is surprising.
The Penguins had the sixth-best offense in the league in the regular season, boasting a roster that included four 70-point scorers. They’ve managed a total of two goals in the past two games, one by Erik Gudbranson and one by Garrett Wilson. They trail the series, 3-0, and could be swept in Game 4 Tuesday night.
In the big picture, though, the offensive outage shouldn’t be a shock.
Every couple of years or so during the Crosby-Malkin era, the Penguins have run into a disciplined defensive team that has taken the air out of their high-octane offense.
Here’s a look at four such examples.
— In the second round of the 2010 playoffs, the Penguins got Halak-ed. Between a fanatical commitment to blocking shots and defending the front of the net and a .937 save percentage from goalie Jaroslav Halak, Montreal rallied from a 3-2 deficit to knock off the Penguins in seven.
— A 2013 Penguins team that loaded up on Jarome Iginla at the trade deadline got absolutely nothing going in a four-game sweep at the hands of Boston in the Eastern Conference finals. The Penguins scored a grand total of two goals, going 0 for 15 on the power play. Tuuka Rask had a .985 save percentage.
— A 2015 team that barely limped into the playoffs was quickly ousted in five games by the New York Rangers. All four Penguins losses came by a 2-1 score. It was the signature stretch of the Mike Johnston era.
— The Penguins ran into Guy Boucher’s infamous 1-3-1 forecheck in the 2017 Eastern Conference finals, scoring a total of three goals in the first three games. After a goalie switch changed momentum, they shed Ottawa’s shackles and won the series in seven games.
“It’s playoff hockey,” center Matt Cullen said. “We don’t expect it to be easy. Everybody defends hard in the playoffs. It’s not like it’s something you don’t expect. We have to be more persistent, more hungry, more determined on the puck. I think we’ve done that for stretches, but we haven’t done it enough.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .