Last year, things got pretty interesting between the Islanders and Penguins. The Islanders were in the midst of another miserable season while the Penguins were fighting their way to another playoff berth minus their two superstars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Let’s take a quick look back at how the events played out last year between these two teams:
February 2nd – Penguins 3 Isles 0
In this game on Long Island the tension started when Maxime Talbot (now with the Flyers) throw a borderline hit on Islanders winger Blake Comeau. It can be debated whether his elbow was up or not, but knocked Comeau out of the game and several games after that. With less than a minute left in the game, notorious cheap shot artist Matt Cooke took a run at Isles goalie Rick DiPietro. This led to some fisticuffs but most noticeably led to Penguins goalie Brent Johnson skating down to challenge DiPietro to fight. Because I’m too embarrassed to post the actual footage of this “fight” I figured I would show you a fight with similar results. Sadly Brent Johnson would play the role of Tyson here. And the goalies fight probably did not even last as long as this.
February 11th – Isles 9 Penguins 3
The rematch a week later was back on Long Island. The Islanders had their statement game of the season. A statement that they were not going to be pushed around be they “top” teams in the league anymore. Not only did they embarrass them on the scoreboard, they took to physicality to get their revenge as well. Words cannot describe how that game went. By the end of the game each team had no more than 3 or 4 players left on the bench. Practically everyone was ejected. If you have 9 minutes or so to watch, here is some entertainment for you.
Flash forward to the 2011-12 season. The Islanders have high hopes of returning to the playoffs. They have started off 3-3-0 and have shown some great flashes and also some stagnant play at times. The top line of John Tavares, PA Parenteau and Matt Moulson has been great. Mark Streit’s return from injury has been huge as he is one of the top power play QB’s in the league. Coming off two loses in Florida last week the Islanders need a win bad. They play at Pittsburgh Thursday and if they lose to them at home, it will be tough to rebound on the road.
Pittsburgh is off to a 6-2-2 start. Sidney Crosby has yet to play a game this year with his post-concussion symptoms. However his return is around the corner. They only have seen Malkin for 3 games. However they have received stellar play from Jordan Staal, James Neal and Matt Cooke, who most be on Zoloft or something, because he seems to be a new man.
Tonight’s game might not have the fireworks from last year, but who knows. The Islanders are not dressing Goon Extraodonaire Trevor Gillies. Max Talbot and Michael Rupp are no longer on the Penguins. Look for the Penguins to forecheck heavily on an Islanders defense that can be beaten to the puck. Mark Eaton and Mike Mottau or just too slow to play in this league. If the Penguins exploit them it will be a long night. If the Islanders can get their forecheck going and generate 5 on 5 offense, then they can stay in this game. Bottom line is they can’t rely on Tavares to carry the team like he has so far this season. No matter what, it’s just good to know the Islanders aren’t eliminated from playoff contention just yet!