Tonight the Islanders and the top seeded Penguins will begin their quarter-final series at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The Penguins are the heavy favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup, and to win the cup.
The Islanders have been given no chance to win this series because Pittsburgh is far and beyond the most talented offensive team in the NHL. Oh and they have been playing without their golden boy Sidney Crosby, who looks to return during this series, but is likely out tonight.
Before we all watch the real life action that begins tonight at 7:30, let's take a look at how NHL '13 thinks game one will unfold between the two teams.
*Crosby played in this game.
The Islanders held their own in the first period, and jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Michael Grabner off a nice feed from Casey Cizikas. After the goal, the Penguins began to put the pressure on Evgeni Nabakov and the Islanders defense, but the Pens could not capitalize on any of their chances.
The Penguins play carried over into the second period, and dominated puck possession. Five minutes into the period, the Islanders could not clear the zone and they paid for it. Brooks Orpik took a shot from the point that stopped by Nabakov, but James Neal was there to bury the rebound and tie the score at one. Five minutes later Brooks Orpik ripped a shot from the point that found its way through traffic and into the back of the net.
The Islanders offense disappeared in the second period and were held to just two shots on goal. It got worse for the Isles when Kunitz struck from the high slot. Kunitz blasted a slapper past Nabakov to give the Pens a 3-1 , lead after two periods.
The game looked to be over halfway through the third period when Kunitz picked off a pass by Mark Streit in the high slot and ripped it high glove side by Nabakov for a 4-1 Pittsburgh lead. The Islanders cut the deficit to 4-2 with three minutes left when Matt Moulson put home a rebound off of a shot by Marty Reasoner. The Islanders pulled Nabakov with a minute and a half left desperately looking to find some magic, and with 50 seconds left in regulation John Tavares stole the puck from Paul Martin and found Brad Boyes who buried the shot and made it a 4-3 game.
The Islanders again pulled Nabakov right after the face-off and got the puck into the Penguins zone looking for a game-tying tally. After a blocked shot from the point, James Neal skated up the wing and hit the empty net to give the Penguins a 5-3 victory.
If any Islander players or coaches are reading this, take care of the puck in your own zone. Clear the puck when you get the chance, and don't let any offensive opportunities go to waste!
Hopefully NHL '13 is not correct with it's game one predictions, but it will be up to the Islanders to force a different outcome.
3rd Star: Brooks Orpik 1G, 1A
2nd Star: James Neal 2G
1st Star: Chris Kunitz 2G (Game winner)