If there's one thing this series has taught us, it's to never predict a playoff series ever again.
It wasn't your run-of-the-mill 1 seed vs. 8 seed matchup even before the series began. In a regular 82-game schedule, this Isles team may have been overtaken by the Flyers and/or Devils by the end of the regular season. Coupled with the huge logjam at the bottom of the East, the Isles weren't your typical 8 seed. They could've easily been a 5 seed.
However, the Pens' juggernaut had everyone (including us) looking at this matchup as a walk in the park. And it was anything but. The main thing no one could have foreseen was the collapse of Marc-Andre Fleury, forcing Bylsma's hand to make the move no NHL coach wants to make in the middle of a playoff series.
In came Tomas Vokoun with the series tied two games apiece, and he rose to the occasion, stopping 66 of 69 shots on his way to a 1.41 GAA and .957 SV%. Goalie stats and goalie play in general are largely dependent on how the defense performs, and there are people who will vehemently argue that the Pens closed out this series due to the defense getting smarter. We just can't buy into that. Sure, the defense played tighter. Sure, Bylsma made some other noticeable changes like getting away from the long stretch passes for a bit and making some crucial lineup decisions. But the fact remains that Tomas Vokoun was routinely making saves on shots that had been going through Fleury. Case closed.
But for the moment this isn't about the
pending goalie controversy sweeping the Pens' fan base. It's about a burial of the New York Islanders.
PENS 5, ISLES 0 -- Our recap
Maybe this series was gonna be as advertised. The Pens blew the Islanders out of the water. Running on all cylinders, etc. Beau Bennett got the Pens running.
ISLES 4, PENS 3 -- OUR RECAP
Pens jumped out to a 2-0 lead early, and you may have started to feel bad for the severely outmatched Islanders. Maybe the hockey gods felt that way, as well, because the Isles started getting some ridiculous bounces. Before anyone knew what happened, the Isles had stolen Game Two.
PENS 5, ISLES 4, OT -- OUR RECAP
We could look at every game and every play and opine about how big they were in the course of the series. After careful deliberation, we have to say Game Three and Kunitz's game-winner was probably one of the top-3 moments/games of the series. The Pens blew a 4-2 third-period lead, and MAF was really losing himself. You remember how the homestretch of the third period was one of the circles of Hell. The Pens survived, and Kunitz got the OT GWG.
ISLES 6, PENS 4 -- OUR RECAP
This was where the Pens simply had to take notice of how the Isles were beating them. They were keying on the Pens' bread-and-butter stretch passes and forcing turnover after turnover. The Pens' offense was still putting pucks in the net, or else this game especially could've been ugly. Another third-period comeback for the Isles. The backbreaker and MAFbreaker came on Casey Cizikas' late goal that wiped out the Pens' chances for a comeback.
PENS 4, ISLES 0 -- OUR RECAP
Enter Tomas Vokoun. Enter Simon Despres. Enter Joe Vitale. Enter Tyler Kennedy. All four players made an immediate impact, and there was no looking back. Correction -- Kennedy had to look back when corralling Kris Letang's perfect spiral on his way to jump-starting the Pens to a 4-0 win. Vokoun's shutout wasn't a product of the defense in front of him. He was forced to make saves that had to be made. Other plays to circle in the series were Vokoun's stops on Okposo and Tavares after they had squeezed through the Pens' D.
PENS 4, ISLES 3 -- OUR RECAP
This is exactly what an elimination game should look like. One team was fighting for their lives, while the other was looking for the kill shot. 10 times out of 10, you gotta expect the guy backed into a corner to come out swinging, and that's what the Isles did. After a huge goal by Paul Martin, it went to OT. Brooks Orpik finished this one off.
He has the pedigree of being an number-one-overall pick, and he's probably been forgotten about while playing on some weak Islander teams. His Hart Trophy nomination this season wasn't made out of pity. The guy deserves all the praise that comes his way. Other than the fact he wears Islanders blue, you have to look long and hard to find a reason to despise the guy. He's just scoring goals and doing work. He was a -4 in the series; interpret that however you want to.
The guy didn't have the best regular season of all time, but he rose to the occasion when it was showtime. He disappeared in the final two games, but he performed how the Islanders needed him to for the most part.
Pissed off that Hamonic is on this list? That's exactly why he's on the list. There's always that one defenseman in a playoffs series that is a huge dick. Huge Dick is Hamonic's middle name.
We completely forgot that Crosby didn't play in Game One. Crosby erased any doubt that he wasn't gonna be ready to roll after a month off the ice. He's the best player in the business. He'll be one of the three stars of a playoff series all day.
He put home 5 goals and registered a point in all 6 games. He scored as many goals as John Tavares and Matt Moulson combined in this series. That says something. The scoring didn't stop even with Dupuis being bounced around from line to line throughout the six games.
We wouldn't say Vokoun was the MVP of the series, although having a goaltender that's able to stop ordinary shots is a pretty valuable thing. If Vokoun felt any pressure in being thrust into a 2-2 series, he didn't show it all. An amazing performance by the old vet.
If upsets are like baking a cake, the Isles had all the ingredients but forgot to turn on the stove. Nabokov's god-awful goaltending was masked for the most part by MAF's. In the games where the Islanders were shut out, Nabokov just couldn't keep his team in it. Pens routinely scored quick goals to answer the Isles. If Nabokov could've stopped a couple extra pucks, the Isles could've pulled this off.
The Isles were 20% on the PP during ther regular season. The Pens were at 80% on the PK during the regular season. Those numbers match up perfectly, but the Pens won the battle, killing off 18 of 20 power plays for a rate of 90%. The big kills came in the second period of Game 6, with the Isles going 0 for 3.
On the flip side, the Pens' PP clicked at 33%. The Pens head to the second round with the best PP and the third-best PK in the playoffs.
Evgeni Malkin is hurting. If you have watched him over his career, you know that. His turnovers and bizarre play have frustrated everyone. But he's sitting at the top of playoff scoring with 11 points, so he must be doing something right.
KENNEDY, VITALE, AND DESPRES
It was a great move by Dan Bylsma. In combination with bringing in Vokoun, Disco added speed to the lineup. Tyler Kennedy is a playoff performer. Joe Vitale just looks pumped as shit to be out there and is taking advantage of his opportunities. Despres was brought in for the three S's: speed, size, and skill.
FAREWELL TO ISLANDER FANS
Dear Islanders fans,