The New York Islanders can complete their first series sweep in over three decades and slam Pittsburgh’s championship window shut.
Sidney Crosby’s Stanley Cup window may very well end with a series sweep at the hands of the New York Islanders.
Every player on the ice Tuesday night will know what’s on the line.
For the Islanders, it sets a new standard the likes of which hasn’t been seen in over three decades. The last time the Islanders swept an opponent in the postseason was the Stanley Cup Final of 1983.
After their quest for a three-peat was cut off by the surge of the Washington Capitals, the Penguins were looking to reset. The general consensus, even after the Islanders secured home-ice, was in favor of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Islanders have an opportunity to sweep a division rival on a national stage and earn themselves an early rest before the second round.
Of course, everyone in the Isles locker room is aware of exactly what’s coming to them. The Penguins won’t go quietly, and a relentless push of everything they can muster should be expected at puck drop.
Robin Lehner knows all about momentum, and how it can escape you as quickly as you found it.
“When we win the fourth one, we can be happy,” Lehner said to Cory Wright of NewYorkIslanders.com. “Right now we have three games, and we need to win one more. … You can’t take anything for granted.”
If there’s one thing to be learned from the Tampa Bay-Columbus series, it’s to expect the unexpected in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Though the circumstance is undoubtedly favorable for the Islanders, the team can’t afford to lose their intensity and let the Penguins back into the series.
The Isles are up 3-0 because of their relentless pressure in shutting down the Penguins’ offense and the continued brilliance of Lehner.
How well they hold up will be put to the test on Tuesday night.
To reinvigorate his group, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan gave them physical and mental rest by canceling practice on Monday.
Sidney Crosby won two of the previous three Stanley Cups, and at 31 years-old realizes his time may be running short with the current group.
“We talked about as a group what we have to do mentally and physically to win a game tomorrow,” Crosby said to CBS Pittsburgh. “That’s all we can control. We can’t get all those games back at once. You have to trust what’s gotten you to this point, also learn from the games. “It’s not the position that you want to be in, but I would love to be a part of a team that comes back from that.”
Both Crosby and Jake Guentzel have been held pointless in what has been an unwelcome reality check for the Penguins—they just don’t want it badly enough.
Whether it’s a question of if Sullivan lost the locker room, or winning two Stanley Cups in recent years has eaten into their drive, the Penguins were outclassed in almost every on-ice aspect.
The Islanders have subdued the Penguins in all three games and have only gotten better at doing so. Their finish and potential sweep lie entirely on them to finish the job after putting themselves in the perfect position.
Sweep or not, 2016 is about to become a distant memory for the Islanders.