The New York Islanders’ first round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins begins on Sunday and leading up to Game One, I’ll be taking a look at how the teams match up against one another. In the first article, I’ll compare the forward groups.
For the Islanders, offense was an issue this season. New York finished 20th in the league in goals per game and the majority of the team’s best forwards really struggled near the end of the season. Three of the team’s top-six forwards in Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson all saw a decline in production from last year.
When Anders Lee went down with an injury, the Islanders made a splash at the trade deadline, adding Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils. However, neither forward has necessarily made the impact the team would’ve hoped for. While Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier were both very good down the stretch and Oliver Wahlstrom has been a nice surprise this season, scoring is still a problem for the Islanders.
The Penguins, on the other hand, won’t be too concerned about their offense. Pittsburgh averaged the second-highest goals per game of any team in the league this year and have much more high-end talent at the top of their lineup than New York. Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel both averaged more than a point per game this year, while Kasperi Kapanen, Evgeni Malkin, Jared McCann and Bryan Rust all would’ve been on pace to score more than 60 points in an 82-game season. Despite a down year, Jason Zucker could do some damage as well, while the addition of Jeff Carter helps to solidify the team’s bottom-six.
The biggest issue the Islanders will face against the Penguins will be trying to contain their offense, which will be key because New York doesn't have the firepower to keep up. Unfortunately when it comes to forward groups, the Islanders are completely outmatched.
Check back in the next few days for articles comparing the teams’ defense and goaltending.
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Which team do you think has the better forward group?