I guess the Penguins have decided the playoffs aren't as fun without the potential for utter disaster.
For the third consecutive year, the Penguins are in danger of letting all their talent go to waste by losing a first-round series to an obviously inferior team. The Penguins have finally decided to go all in on blaming Marc-Andre Fleury for these losses. Tomas Vokoun will start in goal for Game 5 of the series, as they shift back to Consol Energy Center on Thursday.
The Islanders have nothing to lose at this point. They've showed the entire National Hockey League that their long-in-the-works rebuild is working, and that they can play with the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins, no matter what quality of goaltending. Look at this team's play 5-on-5 and tell me they don't deserve to be here. The rewards may have been a bit cheap, but the hard work earned them.
So now it is a best-of-three, with the Coliseum awaiting a Game 6 Saturday. The Islanders have a big opportunity Thursday night. You're going against a goalie who hasn't played in nearly two weeks, with a team whose confidence is clearly shaken. The first ten minutes might end up deciding this game. If the Isles can crack Vokoun early, the Pens might just go downhill yet again. Of course, if Vokoun shuts them down early, that might just repair everything, and then it's up to Evgeni Nabokov who has... also not been great in this series.
So... how's Tomas Vokoun gonna play?
The numbers would suggest quite well. Despite a 3-8 career postseason record with the Predators, he's got an above-average .922 save percentage and right decent 2.47 goals against average. Even more promising, Vokoun is 3-0 with a .970 save percentage and a 0.90 GAA against the Islanders this season. At this point, it's hard to really predict anything anymore when it comes to the Penguins, but Vokoun seems like he might be able to stabilize things.
How will the Islanders handle the Pens offense without Andrew MacDonald?
The Islanders' somewhat nameless defense lost a key cog on Tuesday when MacDonald suffered what may be a broken hand. MacDonald was maybe the most underrated of all the underrated Islanders, playing on a shutdown defense pair with Travis Hamonic. Jack Capuano noted after Game 4 that MacDonald's absence was meaningful. He reminded us that he and Hamonic had spent two seasons playing together between AHL Bridgeport and the NHL. Hamonic, who occasionally has lapses (normal for a young player), will be an interesting watch in Game 5 without his longtime partner.
Can Sidney Crosby keep putting up two points per game?
Because if so, that'd be awesome. Buried underneath the Penguins' struggles is that Crosby has returned from a broken jaw to the tune of six points in three games. Of course, it all means nothing if the Penguins suffer yet another embarrassing upset in the first round of the postseason. But if they don't, it becomes another fascinating, entertaining comeback by the best player on earth.
Game Time: 7 p.m. ET
National TV: NBC Sports Network, TSN
New York TV: MSG Plus
Pittsburgh TV: ROOT Sports