Islanders Insight’s Weekly Preview: 3/7/2016

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Oct 18, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and New York Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan (44) battle for a loose puck during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

What a road-trip! The Islanders beat the New York Rangers on Sunday night to cap off a seven game trip, bringing home 12 of a possible 14 points. In their past 13 games, the Islanders are 10-1-2. Now we’ll take a look at the week ahead, as the Islanders get back to Brooklyn for a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday night, then head back on the road to play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, and the Boston Bruins on Saturday.

Tuesday, March 8th: New York Islanders vs Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 pm ET, Live: NBCSN, SNO, SNP Radio: WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM & 103.9 LI NEWS RADIO)

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been just as inconsistent as the Islanders were in the first half of the season. With Sydney Crosby not playing to form, and some key injuries, the Penguins find themselves in the first wild card spot, sitting right behind the Islanders in the Metropolitan Division. Don’t be mistaken though, the Penguins are getting healthy, and it seems that Sid-The-Kid is returning to form. Special teams for the Penguins have been good and bad this season. As of late, the power play unit has been virtually absent in their past three contests, going one for their last seven. An Islanders penalty kill unit that continues to rank first overall in the league must understand that the Penguins can turn those power play numbers around at anytime with world-class players such as Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. But during their last eight penalty kills, the Penguins have only allowed one goal, killing seven of eight penalties last week in three contests.

Player to Watch: C’mon, how could it not be Sydney Crosby? There is no question that Crosby plays exceptionally well against the Islanders. How many times have you seen the highlight where Crosby splits the Islanders defense and undresses ex-Islanders goaltender Anders Nilsson for a highlight reel goal? And if that’s not enough for you, in his last ten contests, Crosby has 12 points including four goals. It is worth noting that none of those points came on the power play.

Wednesday, March 8th: New York Islanders at Toronto Maple Leafs (7:00  pm ET, Live: MSG+, SN Radio: WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM & 103.9 LI NEWS RADIO)

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a full-on tank for Auston Matthews mode. By the trade deadline, the Maple Leafs looked to gain draft picks, and unload their roster, including trading away their former captain Dion Phaneuf. Leafs fans had some excitement to look forward too though, as Toronto recalled prospects William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen. Unfortunatly for Leafs fans, their young guns haven’t been able to bring the wins to the table going 0-5 in their past five games, but that may just be what the Leafs organization wants. In the Leafs past three contests, the power play is exactly where most think it would be, going one for seven. Credit should be given where credit is due though, as the Leafs have a great head coach, Mike Babcock, behind their bench and even with the young guys playing, the penalty kill unit has been successful. In their past nine penalty kills, six of them have been successful. This includes only allowing one power play goal against the first place Washington Capitals, who have a 23.8 power play percentage, third overall in the league. Though this is a last place Maple Leafs team, the Islanders cannot let games like this one slip by them as the standings in the Metropolitan Division are still very tight.

Player to Watch: William Nylander scored his first goal on March 5th against the Ottawa Senators, and there will be many more to come in his career. Son of former NHL star, Michael Nylander, William has been playing in a mens division since 2013-2014, playing in the Swedish Elite League as a part of the MODO hockey club.

Saturday, March 12th: New York Islanders at Boston Bruins (1:00 pm ET, Live: MSG+ Radio: WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM & 103.9 LI NEWS RADIO)

The Boston Bruins had a good week last week, claiming five of six possible points, beating the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks, then gained a point in overtime against the Capitals. Sitting in third place in the Atlantic Division, the Bruins, much like the Islanders, need to continue to gain points anyway they can as the Atlantic Division is just as tight as the Metropolitan Division, if not tighter with three points separating first place and third place. Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask, was great last week posting over a .920 save percentage in each of his three games played, including a save percentage of .960 against the Flames. Rask’s great goaltending is a big part why the Bruins penalty kill has been so good. In the Bruins last nine penalty kills, they killed off eight of the chances, only surrendering one goal to the Blackhawks. If the power play unit had been a little bit better for the Bruins, they may have been able to claim that extra point last week, but going 0 for five against the Capitals is not going to help claim victory against the league’s best. For the rest of the week, the Bruins power play was average going two for six combined against the Flames and Blackhawks.

Player to Watch: The Bruins leading point scorer, Patrice Bergeron has been on fire as of late, with ten points in his last ten games, five of them being goals. Bergeron is on a three game point streak, scoring three goals in as many consecutive games, and has points in four of his last five contests.

With having a very successful road trip, the Islanders know what they have to do to make it to the playoffs as it is by no means a guarantee at this point in time. With the Eastern Conference having many tight races, the Islanders will be facing teams like the Penguins and Bruins, with much urgency to gain as many points as they can.

Islanders Player to Watch: With Jaroslav Halak having a mediocre game against the Rangers Sunday night, head coach, Jack Capuano, may turn to Thomas Greiss to be between the pipes in an important game like Tuesday’s against the Penguins. Greiss leads the league in save percentage with a solid .930 in 28 games played, and playing his former team may give him the extra motivation to kick it up a notch.

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