The Prediction: (1) Pittsburgh Penguins v. (8) New York Islanders

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by Kolby Solinsky

Editor, White Cover Magazine

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The Setup:

How would you like to be an Islander at this very moment?

Not only have you outplayed yourself for a “full” 48-game season and put yourself in the playoffs for the first time since Grant Fuhr was on coke, but you had to sit there and watch every other team ping pong and Plinko up and down the standings, eventually landing themselves in the one position no team in the East wanted to be in: playing Pittsburgh.

The Islanders are a better team than anybody will remember them for, and they’ve finally changed their team motto from potential to the present. Unfortunately, nobody will know, because there’s no conceivable or analytical way that Pittsburgh loses this series.

I’ve never been a fan of reading too much into season series or head-to-head win/loss records. After all, the Canucks won their season series against the Blackhawks (2-0-1) but were swept by the San Jose Sharks. Go figure. The playoffs aren’t the regular season, and that can’t be truer than in 2013, when a 48-game trial is hardly enough time for an accurate audition.

Still, it can’t be lost on Long Island that the Penguins went 4-1-0 against the Islanders this season, with one of those wins being a 6-1 shelling of Isles’ starter Evgeni Nabokov.

*It should be noted, these two teams have had cool moments of history against each other. Sid’s first game and first goal after his year-long concussion battle (which ended in 2012) was against the Islanders, and Tavares’s first NHL goal (in 2010) was against Pittsburgh. In 1975, the Islanders became the second team ever to comeback an win a playoff series they trailed 0-3, and it wan against Pittsburgh, too.

The Key Players:

Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin. James Neal. Jarome Iginla. Chris Kunitz. Kris Letang. Marc-Andre Fleury.

When healthy, that’s the menu Pittsburgh offers.

John Tavares plays for New York.

The X Factor:

James Neal.

He’s a slice-and-dice assassin. When he’s clicking, the Penguins slash through teams like they’re thumbing a watermelon in Fruit Ninja. Crosby and Malkin are too obviously incredible. Neal isn’t the one holding them together, but he’s the one who can blow this sucker wide open.

Pittsburgh Wins If…

They fu*kin’ show up.

New York Wins If…

They don’t fu*kin’ show up.

Prediction:

Don’t get me wrong. While I don’t think there’s any way the Islanders can actually win this thing, I think they’re good enough to put a couple good games together. As good as Pittsburgh is, they’re not overwhelming in their dominance — not in the way Chicago has been as various points this season.

Keep in mind, this Islanders team could have finished 6th, too. There’s no such thing as an 8th seed anymore.

Pittsburgh in 6.

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