Column: Islanders will provide a battle, but Pens will win


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The Penguins have made early playoff exits for several years in a row.

Ethan Spozarski, Multimedia Editor

Despite early season struggles shown by the Penguins, they’ve come back to win the East division and are set to face the New York Islanders in the first round of the 2021 NHL playoffs. 

This won’t be the first time these two teams have faced off in the first round in recent years. In 2019 the Islanders swept the Penguins in four games. The Isles then went on to be swept by the Carolina Hurricanes in the next round. 

There are two ways of looking at this first-round matchup. 

One way looks quite good for the Pens, because they have become a better overall team than they were in 2019. 

The Pens traded goaltender Matt Murray to the Ottawa Senators and bought out defenseman Jack Johnson’s contract. The Penguins also have acquired right wing Kasperi Kapanen from the Maple Leafs and center Jeff Carter in a trade with the LA Kings. 

While these are not all of the transactions the Penguins have made in the past two seasons, they have been very important. 

The other way of looking at this series is more challenging for the Pens, and it focuses on Islanders Coach Barry Trotz. He is 2-0 when dealing with the Penguins under Coach Mike Sullivan in playoff series. He also took the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018 and won. 

Trotz provides a 1-3-1 man defensive maneuver that makes it hard for fast and slick teams to break into the offensive zone. His system also makes it difficult for teams to get shots to the net, with his players breaking up passes near the front of the net. 

The first game of this best-of-seven series starts Sunday at noon. 

While the Penguins and Islanders are set to have another great playoffs series, the Penguins will win this series in six games, making up for their elimination in 2019.