Panthers Prevail, Islanders Finally Get a Win, Penguins Stay in the Hunt
The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up as teams enter the final three games of the regular season. The Panthers and Islanders currently hold the two Wild Card playoff spots. Pittsburgh, however, trails them both by just a point. All three teams have played 79 games and are looking to make one last push to secure themselves a spot in the playoffs.
Alex Lyon continued his impressive run last night in a resounding 7-2 Panthers win. Lyon saved a franchise second most shots, saving 56 of 58 shots he faced. Lyon has been lights out for the Panthers and they would be foolish to put anyone else between the pipes until they secure a playoff spot for good. Lyon is giving the Panthers a new burst of energy and the team is rallying behind him in a big way offensively as well.
Brandon Montour also had a career game for himself, scoring 1 goal and 3 assists. Also present on the offensive side was Aleksander Barkov, who tallied 2 goals and 1 assist. Barkov has been on-and-off all season and the Panthers would stand to benefit greatly if their captain can find his stride in his game late in the season.
The Panthers remaining games on the schedule include traveling to Washington D.C. to play the Capitals, and then the team returns to Florida for a two-game home stand against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Carolina Hurricanes.
Both heavy weights will have little to play for besides the interest in eliminating the Panthers from playoff contention. It remains to be seen whether the opposing coaching staffs will play their star players due to the personal insignificance it would have to those teams.
The Penguins won a do or die game last night against the Minnesota Wild. The Penguins prevailed 4-1 behind a stellar performance from Tristan Jarry. Jarry recorded 27 saves on 28 shots faced and was the main reason the penguins were propelled to victory. The game flow was particularly slow, with moneypuck.com projecting a mere 3.97 expected goals from the game, the lowest expected total from the 14-game slate. The Penguins have played below average offensively and need to improve in that area if the team wants to make a final push for the playoffs.
Pittsburgh’s work is cut out for them. The team plays 2 of their final 3 games on the road, but face bottom-feeder teams. The Penguins remaining opponents are the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, and Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Penguins won’t be rated anywhere below -200 on the money line on those games and thus are expected to take care of their own business. The team, however, has disappointed fans all year and it remains to be seen if the offense will show up for the team in its final road games.
New York Islanders
The Islanders were able to get back in the win column last night against the Tampa Bay Lighting in a big way, winning 6-1. The Lightning didn’t look like they showed up to UBS Arena with their best effort, as the team went toe-to-toe with Eastern Conference competitor the New York Rangers the night prior.
Excuses don’t cut it in the NHL, and they won’t be tolerated in my article either. It was a big win for the Islanders, both in the standings and mentally. Prior to the game last night, the Islanders had been outscored by the Lightning 10-3 in their first two meetings this season and were the team that eliminated the islanders in a thrilling Eastern Conference final series last season.
The team rallied behind Ilya Sorokin’s 30 save performance and provided him with 6 goals on the offensive side. It’s something Sorokin certainly feels some relief from, as the team only provided him with 3 goals over the course of the 3 games before last night’s clobbering of the Lightning.
The Islanders play 2 of their final 3 games at home and will need to come away with 4 points from those games to stay in contention. The Islanders travel to Washington D.C. to take on the Capitals as well, and the balance of their season may ultimately weigh on the result of that game.