-Presumably, if you're reading this blog. You're a Penguins fan. Feel free to root for your team by every stretch of the imagination. But pause and give some appreciation to John Tavares of the Islanders when you watch tonight's game. Of all the "next one" players who have been drafted as the "next Sidney Crosby," Tavares comes the closest in our opinion. He migh tnot be as dangerous of a goal-scorer as Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay, but Tavares' game is probably more similar to Crosby's than Stamkos' is. Nathan MacKinnon in Colorado shows some flashes but he's still very raw.
-Tavares might not have the flat-out speed Crosby does, but he is so creative with the puck and he creates so many scoring chances while playing in tough, tight areas.
-Look at this pass by Tavares to Kyle Okposo years ago:
-Compare it to this pass by Crosby to Chris Kunitz:
-It's a different type of pass on a different part of the rink, but the vision to make a pass like that is shared by a select list of players in the NHL. Tavares and Crosby are each on that list.
-Since the Penguins last played the Islanders Dec. 3, Crosby has scored 31 points in 21 games. Tavares has 30 points in 23 games.
-Speaking of Okposo, we would expect him to play with some motivation tonight. First, he has played well against the Penguins in the past two seasons. Second, he was left off the United States Olympic team and he might want to show some members of that team's management, including Dan Bylsma, that was a mistake.
-The Vanek-Tavares-Okposo line is playing some scary hockey right now.
-The Islanders are playing without Travis Hamonic who is injured. He typically sees plenty of minutes against Evgeni Malkin. He's a physical, persistent and agitating player. Malkin won't be upset of his absence.
-We forgot to up date our list of players who have made their debut with the Penguins this season and the previous players to wear that number.
-No. 32 - Dave Hannan, Dave Goertz, Dwight Mathiasen, Pat Mayer, Peter Taglianetti, John Slaney, Harry York, Greg Crozier, Dick Tarnstrom, Alain Nasreddine, Chris Minard, Mathieu Garon, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond.
-There really aren't any obvious overwhelming choices here as to was best No. 32. Dave Hannan had a very long but mostly undistinguished career with the Penguins. Peter Taglianetti was a contributor on the first two Stanley Cup titles. And Dick Tarnstrom has a place in our hearts. We'll go with Hannan based on his longevity.
-No. 40 - Frank Pietrangelo, Patrick Lalime, Andy Chiodo, Alexander Pechurskiy, Nick Drazenovic
-We're torn on who was the best No. 40 in franchise history. Frank Pietrangelo was a solid backup goaltender and he'll always have the save, but Lalime had that record unbeaten streak to start his career. We'll give the edge to Pietrangelo based on being a part of the 1990-91 Stanley Cup championship.
-Chuck Kobasew appears set to once again begin the game on Crosby's right wing. We realize lines change shift-to-shift, especially with this team, and it takes a while to build chemistry, but we can't say we understand why Jayson Megna isn't getting a look on that line.
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Chuck Kobasew, Chris Kunitz, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Jeff Zatkoff.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo and Andrew Ebbett.
-The Islanders' starters are Kyle Okposo, John Tavares, Thomas Vanek, Calvin de haan, Matt Donovan and Kevin Poulin.
-Their scratches are Eric Boulton, Matt Carkner and Travis Hamonic.
18:31: Brock Nelson snaps off a wrister from the right circle. Zatkoff fights it off.
18:21: The Islanders cash in immediately. Letang tries to play a puck out of his own left wing corner but is pressured by Cal Clutterbuck. Letang chips the puck to the left point where Hickey chips it to the left circle. Michael Grabner jumps all over it and flings a wrister by Zatkoff's glove hand on the far side. That was the product of hard work by Clutterbuck. Hickey gets the only assist. Islanders 1-0.
17:02: Malkin tries to sneak a pass from the right
16:51: Okposo has an acre of ice to the right of the cage to work with. He gets Zatkoff to over commit a bit and forces a pass to Tavares on the left side of the cage. Orpik is position above the blue paint and steals the pass.
14:58: Olli Maatta whacks a slapper from the left point wide to the near side.
11:39: After Martin turns the puck over in the neutral zone (thanks to a hit into the boards by Clutterbuck), Grabner pick sup the loose puck and against the Penguins' zone on the right wing, He crosses over with Nelson on a two-on-one against Orpik and taps a pass to Nelson in the left circle. Nelson uses Orpik as a screen and rips a sick wrister by Zatkoff's blocker. Defense leads to offense. Clutterbuck is giving the Penguins' defensemen trouble. Craig Adams is shaken up afterwards. Grabner gets the only assist. Islanders 2-0.
10:41: After Strait fires a slapper from the left point which misses the net, Letang tries to corrals the rebound in the right wing corner and is knocked off the puck by Okposo. Okposo then deals a pass to Strait in the slot. Strait chips a puck on net which Zatkoff eats up.
10:28: The Penguins get one back. Chasing after a puck in the end boards, Kobasew is able to prevent Strait from getting to the puck. Crosby picks it up, circles around in the left corner and taps a backhanded pass. Kunitz whacks a one-timer in the left circle by the glove hand of Poulin. There was some serious chemistry on display there with all three forwards. Crosby and Maatta get assists. Islanders 2-1.
8:36: Settling a puck behind the net, , Kunitz chips a puck from the left of the cage into the crease. Crosby crashes in and the puck deflects in behind Poulin through his five hole. That was a leaky goal. Crosby gets credit for the goal. Kunitz and Niskanen get assists. Islanders, 2, Penguins 2.
7:58: Sutter gains the offensive zone on the right wing and snaps off a wrister which
7:28: Letang flings a wrister from the right point which Poulin kicks out despite traffic. Play is halted. de Haan is nabbed for interference against Malkin. de Haan makes a stop at the bench en route to the penalty box as he has a bloody nose. Malkin, James Neal, Crosby, Letang and Kunitz take the ice.
7:14: Malkin whacks a one-timer from the right point which Clutterbuck deflects out of play.
6:51: Neal tries to jam in a shot from the right of the net. Poulin fights it off.
5:28: The de Haan minor is killed. Nothing impressive for the Penguins with that chance.
5:16: Sutter backhands a wrister from above the right circle. Poulin punches it away.
4:05: Okposo whacks a slapper from the right point wide on the near side.
2:32: Hickey snaps off a wrister from the right point. Peter Regin tries to re-direct a puck which Zatkoff fights off.
2:08: Scuderi drops Matt Martin with a hit in the left circle.
1:54: Donovan has a clean look in the right circle but whacks a one-timer wide of the cage.
0:00: End of period. Islanders 2, Penguins 2.
-First things first, Adams only took three shifts that period and did not play in the period and did not record a shift in the final 8:36 of play. He appeared to get shaken up on the goal by Nelson.
-This is certainly shaping up to be a wide open game as we've gotten accustomed to with these two teams.
-Kris Letang has two turnovers in his own zone which led to scoring chances. One led to the Grabner goal.
-Kobasew has shown quite a bit of chemistry with Crosby and Kunitz tonight.
-Shots on net are tied, 9-9.
-The Penguins have an 18-13 lead in attempted shots.
-Regin leads the game with three shots.
-Sutter, Neal and Kunitz each led the Penguins with two shots.
-MacDonald each leads the game with 8:18.
-Martin leads the Penguins with 7:49.
-Penguins have a 14-7 lead in faceoffs.
-Crosby 6 for 8 (75 percent).
-Tavares 3 for 4 (42 percent).
17:27: Maatta cross checks Colin McDonald into the right wing corner boards of the Penguins' zone. That's two minutes. Orpik, Sutter, Adams and Paul Martin each take the ice.
15:27: Two minutes later, the
15:00: Off a feed by Crosby, Kunitz rips a wrister from the left wing which Poulin deflects out of play.
14:25: Olli Maatta to the rescue. Skating into the offensive zone with the puck, Kunitz leaves a drop pass in the slot for Maatta. Maatta picks it up, veers by a stick check from McDonald and tucks a backhander behind Poulin to give the Penguins their first lead. Kunitz and Niskanen get assists. Penguins 3-2.
13:57: Hickey settles a puck in the high slot and whacks a slapper on net. Zatkoff knocks it dead and covers.
13:40: Niskanen smacks Hickey with a nice hit iotn the boards near the Penguins' left corner.
13:18: Stealing a loose puck from the Islanders blue line, Engelland pops a slapper from the right circle. Poulin deflects it away.
13:08: Pyatt chucks a loose puck from above the left circle on net. Poulin eats it up.
9:29: According to Root Sports broadcasters, Niskanen damaged an electronic billboard on the boards with a hit against Hickey. A permanent sign was used to cover the malfunctioning electric billboard.
9:18: Clutterbuck races up the right wing and flings a wrister wide tot he far side.
7:33: Play is halted as Casey Cizikas is in some discomfort. He blocked a wrister off a faceoff by Tanner Glass. he's in a lot of pain. He is helpd off the ice by a team staff member and Radek Martinek.
3:42: Matt Martin hooked up Paul Martin int he neutral zone. That's two minutes for Martin on Martin violence. Neal, Crosby, Kunitz, Letang and Malkin take the ice.
2:23: Settling a puck in the right circle, letang snaps off a wrister which clunks off the cross bar.
2:16: Malkin taps a pass from the left point to Neal in the slot. Neal slide the puck to Crosby on the right half wall. Crosy faces a shot and slides a cross-ice pass to Letang in the left circle. Letang whacks a one-timer behind a sprawling Poulin. What a display of skill by that power play. Crosby and Neal get assists. Penguins 4-2.
0:22: Clutter buck releases a wrister from the right circle. Zatkoff snags it. Maatta tries to box out Clutterbuck who bumps into him. Niskanen gives Clutterbuck a shove. Clutterbuck falls then tries to trip up Glass. No calls.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 4, Islanders 2.
-Things settled down quite a bit during that period. That period wasn't nearly as up and down as the first period.
-The Penguins' power play was really sharp on the Letang goal.
-After looking pretty dangerous in the first period, the Tavares-Okposo-Vanek line was nearly invisible in the second.
-The Penguins have an 18-16 lead in shots on net.
-The Penguins have a 39-33 lead in attempted shots.
-Regin leads the game with four shots.
-Neal leads the Penguins with three shots.
-Malkin leads the game with 15:27 of ice time.
-MacDonald leads the Islanders with 15:26
-The Penguins have a 28-17 lead in faceoffs (62 percent).
-Crosby is 12 for 19 (75 percent).
-Cizikas is 7 for 11 (64 percent).
-MacDonald leads the game with three blocked shots.
-Maatta, Jokinen and Orpik each lead the Penguins with two blocked shots.
19:22: Paul Martin chips a wrister on net from the right point. Poulin gloves it.
19:16: Letang chips a wrister on net from the right point. Poulin snags it.
18:53: Frans Nielsen snaps off a wrister from the high slot. Scuderi deflects it out of play.
18:11: A slapper by McDonald from the right point is fough toff.
18:06: A few seconds after Martin slams Glass to the ice with a blindside hit, they drop the gloves in the Penguins' slot. They land several rabbit punches and head to the penalty box. We'r enot sure either player helpe dhis team with that fight. The Islanders were moving the puck around the offensive zone and had possession on a strong shift. For the Penguins, they have a two-goal lead and something like thtat coudl spart the Islanders.
18:02: Off the ensuing faceoff, Donoavan rips a wrister from center point wide of the cage.
17:55: Off a neutral zone steal by Adams, Sutter rips a wrister on net. Poulin snaps off a wrister which Poulin smother. Hickey crashes into the cage after being shoved by Adams.
16:52: Orpik and Martin have a mix-up at their blue line and the Islanders strike. Neilsen controls a puck just outside the blue line. Despite Oprik leaning in on a poke check, Martin steps up and hip checks. him. Nielsen is still able to leave a drop pass for Bailey who races down the slot from the blue line on a breakaway. He rips a low wrister under Zatkoff's blocker to make it a one-goal game. Nielsen and Hickey get assists. Penguins 4-3.
14:52: Off a feed from Okposo, Strait whacks a slapper from above the left circle.
14:37: Megna is on a line with Sutter and Pyatt with Glass in the box.
14:01: The second line get sin on the act. de Haan controls the puck behind his net and is pressured by Malkin. He tries to chip the puck around the boards and has it stolen by Neal at the right point. Neal cuts above the right circle and taps a pass to Malkin in the left circle. Malkin taps the puck through the five hole of a sprawling Poulin. What a pretty play. Neal gets the only assist. Penguins 5-3.
13:01: Nielsen flies into the offensive zone and snaps off a wrister. Orpik deflects it out of play with a stick-on-puck.
12:44: Crosby rips a wrister from the left wing which Poulin rejects.
11:40: Clutteruck rips a wrister from the right wing. Zatkoff smothers it.
10:47: Neal rips a shot from above the right circle. Poulin snags it.
10:21: Matt Martin rips a wrister from the left wing. Zatkoff say no.
10:14: HUGE save. Megna pushes a puck out of his own zone up the right wing. He chips a puck by Martinek and Matt Martin and attacks the net. He flips a backhander on net which Poulin punches away.
9:05: The Islanders crash the net and score? Or do they? Donovan dumps a puck from the neutral zone to the right wing corner. Orpik tries to recover it but Tavares forces a turnover. Okposo jumps on the puck and rips a wrister from below the right circle. Zatkoff holds it out at first but allow it to sit loose in front of hte goal line. Donvoan and Vanek crash in and the puck crosses the line as a whistle is blown. Officials rule no goal on the ice but immediately review the play. Ultimately, Okposo is given credit for the goal. Tavares and Donovan get assists. That was a breakdown on a few levels for the Penguins. Penguins 5-4.
8:39: de Haan races up the right wing and taps a feed to the right circle. Tavares touches a shot wide.
8:16: Taking a drop pass in the neutral zone, Tavares races into the offensive zone, splits Scuderi and Letang and attacks the net, A hook by Letang forces him to go wide and prevents a true shot. Letang gets two minutes. Sutter, Paul Martin, Adams and Orpik take the ice.
8:05: MacDonald cranks a slapper from the right point wide of the cage.
7:36: Vanek cranks a slapper from the right circle. Zatkoff says no.
7:05: Tavares draws another penalty. Off a give and go play with Vanek, He drives down the slot and is tripped up by Glass. He crashes into the net. That's another minor penalty. The Islanders will have a two-man advantage for 50 seconds. The Islanders cal timeout to get organized. Sutter, Adams and Orpik take the ice.
6:39: HUGE SAVE! Vanek deals a pass from the left circle to the slot. Bailey re-directs the puck to Nielsen to the right of the cage where Nielsen tries to slam it home. Zatkoff is able to rob him with his right leg. Wow!
6:29: Tavares drives a slapper from above the right circle wide of the age.
6:16: The Letang minor is killed. The Penguins still have to kill off 1:10 of Glass' minor.
5:05: Glass' minor is killed. The Penguins dodged one there.
4:42: Off a turnover by Neal, Matt Martin rips a wrister from the right point which deflects wide.
4:30: After an icing call, the Penguins call timeout to get a breather.
4:07: Neal makes a nice steal off a pass by Okposo in the Penguins' zone.
3:14: Off a feed by Crosby, Kunitz backhands a shot on net. Poulin fights it off.
1:40: Off a cycle from the right wing corner, Malkin whips a wrister from the right circle.
1:28: Graber snaps off a wrister from the left circle. Zatkoff boots it out.
1:16: As Poulin is pulled, a wrister by Tavares from the left circle is fought off by Zatkoff.
0:51: Okposo flings a spinning backhander from the left wing. Zatkoff fights it off.
0:03: MacDonald turns a puck over in the defensive zone to Sutter in the slot. Sutter whips it into the open cage for one of us:
-The goal is unassisted. Penguins 6-4.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 6, Islanders 4.
-In "The Dark Knight," during the the final fight scene between the Joker and Batman, the Joker tells Batman, "I think you and I are destined to do this forever." That might apply to this current group of Penguins and Islanders.
-As much as everyone wants to break down what happens to the defense in these games with these teams, maybe we should just accept these two teams are always going to play wild, wide open end-to-end games. When you mix yellow and blue, you get green. When you mix the Islanders and Penguins, you get goals.
-There were 13 former first-round picks on the ice and each team had a backup goaltender in net. Maybe 10 goals were supposed to happen? Maybe 60 minutes of lighting-fast, exciting hockey is just going to happen regardless of any defensive strategy.
-Frankly, we're not sure if you put former Devils coach Jacques Lemaire on the ice with a bag of rock salt, you could slow these two teams down.
-Kris Letang had another ... well... Kris Letang-type of game. He had some early turnovers, including one which led to the Islanders' first goal. But he also cashed in on a key power-play goal in the second period. These ups and downs are what he offers.
-Jeff Zatkoff could have been better, especially on the Islanders' fourth goal. But he came through with a clutch, clutch save against Frans Nielsen on the five-on-three situation. This was a "one-more-save" type of game.
-The Penguins had a clear advantage on the power play as they were 1 for 2 on the power play and were 3 for 3 on the penalty kill. Their effort on that 50-second five-on-three penalty kill was huge.
-Considering he seemed to be a little dinged up in the first period, Craig Adams had a solid game, particularly on the penalty kill. He had a few nice plays to get the puck out of the defensive zone.
-We've questioned the use of Chuck Kobasew on the first line the previous two games. Tonight, he showed a little chemistry with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, especially in the first period. He had a nice subtle play to tie up Brian Strait. That allowed Crosby to recover a puck and set up Kunitz for the Penguins' first goal.
-The Penguins' second line was quiet most of the night until late when it produced the eventual game-winning goal.
-We can't definitively say the Tanner Glass-Matt Martin fight gave the Islanders a spark, but from that point on, the Islanders outscored the Penguins, 2-1, not including the empty net goal near the end of regulation. Glass could have shown a little bit more restraint in that situation.
-We're not sure how much ice time they got against the Islanders' top two lines, but the Penguins's best defensive pairing was Matt Niskanen and Olli Maatta. They fed off each other very well and contribute quite a bit on offense.
-Remember when everyone thought Niskanen was too expensive with a salary cap hit of $1.5 million a few years ago? He's going to be offered quite a bit of money from potential suitors this offseason.
-The Islanders' top line was dangerous in the first period, invisible in the second, and aggressive in the third period. Okposo, John Tavares and Thomas Vanek were all over the place.
-If the Islanders ever developed some depth on the blue line, they would be really scary.
-Andrew MacDonald had a rough night. He was on the ice for five of the Penguins' six goals, including the empty netter. Ouch.
-Could Kevin Poulin have been better? Absolutely. But we're not sure what could reasonably be expected behind this defense against the Penguins' offense.
-The Islanders led in shots on net, 34-29.
-The Islanders led in attempted shots, 63-53.
-Tavares and James Neal each led the game with five shots.
-Brooks Orpik led the game with 23:48 of ice time.
-Vanek led the Islanders with 22:47.
-The Penguins led in faceoffs, 42-30 (58 percent).
-Crosby was 16 for 22 (73 percent).
-Casey Cizikas was 10 for 16 (63 percent).
-Orpik led the game with four blocked shots.
-MacDonald led the Islanders with three blocked shots.
-Niskanen increased his point-scoring streak to six games.
-Niskanen now has 30 points this season, five fewer than his career high.
-Kunitz (264 points) moved past Robert Lang (261) for 27th place on the franchise's all-time scoring list.