The New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins will face off in the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The series is yet to be scheduled, but it will mark the sixth time the two franchises have met in the postseason. The Islanders have a record of 2-6 against Pittsburgh this year, so it is likely that Trotz will configure the lines to maximize production.
Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson, and Josh Bailey have been a solid line since last year’s postseason appearance. Their appearances are not up for debate. In their last four games, Beauvillier has recorded four goals and has points in seven straight games. Bailey picked up an additional six assists. The trio should be expected to appear together for the Islanders, especially after their immense offensive success.
Yet some players are not performing as expected. Mathew Barzal was benched after consistent disappointing games. He will appear in the postseason, but the first-line center has to make adjustments to his game in order to acquire the ice time he seeks. Jordan Eberle should be expected to appear on the line with him. However, the final left-wing spot is up for grabs. The Islanders are missing their captain, Anders Lee after he suffered a season-ending injury in mid-March. It is likely that veteran Leo Komarov will take this spot after a decent offensive performance this past week.
The third line has constantly changed this season. The line most definitely will have Jean-Gabriel Pageau as the center and Kyle Palmieri on the left wing. But the final spot is open for debate. After an outstanding rookie season, Oliver Wahlstrom is most definitely a front runner. However, Barry Trotz has a tendency to trust his veterans, especially during the playoffs. This means that Dal Colle shouldn’t be completely ruled out.
The Identity Line
Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck, and Casey Cizikas will most likely remain as the foundation of the Islanders playoff team. These three, also known as the identity line, provide offense and physicality that many don’t expect from a traditional fourth line. Barry Trotz, coach of the New York Islanders, stated at a press conference in February of this year, “They use the same brain. They’re all on the same page, so it’s hard to break them up.”
However, Cal Clutterbuck has not appeared in the lineup for the past few games. Travis Zajac, former forward for the New Jersey Devils, has taken his place. If Cal is healthy he will most likely appear in the postseason. If he’s not available, expect Zajac to step in for him.
The six defensemen in the lineup shouldn’t be up for debate. Infamous for their defensive strength, the New York Islanders should be expected to present the same pairs.
The first line will feature Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock, arguably two of the strongest defensive players on the team. Scott Mayfield and Nick Leddy will also be paired together. Finally, long-time veteran Andy Greene will probably share the ice with Noah Dobson, who is hoping for his first consistent playoff appearance. Last year Trotz decided not to play the rookie defenseman, but after more experience, it is likely Dobson will appear in the playoffs.
With immense goalie power from Vezina contender, Semyon Varlamov, and rookie Ilya Sorokin, the Islanders don’t need to worry about their last line of defense. Varlamov will probably start for the majority of the games which can be credited to his outstanding performance this year. Sorokin will get some starts but expect Trotz to ease him into his first postseason appearance.
The match-up between the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins will be nothing short of an entertaining playoff series. Mathew Barzal described the rising tensions best stating, “We’re prepared for war.”