Although the Pittsburgh Penguins played a very solid game against the New York Islanders on Sunday, they still got handed the loss. Naturally, fans began their annual social media freak out, some even self-proclaiming that the series was over. So, I decided to put together my own bold takes heading into Game 2 on Tuesday night.
Tristan Jarry Bounces Back, Gets First Postseason Win
Penguins fans are all over social media calling for the head of Tristan Jarry, as they did to the likes of Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury in the years prior. Now while I have been a critic of him in the past, I do not think that mentally and emotionally draining the goaltenders in Pittsburgh is going to make them play at a better level.
Yes, Jarry was terrible in Game 1, however, have people forgotten the performance he put on in his one game in the bubble against the Montreal Canadiens? The goaltender saved 20 of 21 shots and had a 0.54 goals saved above expected (GSAx), keeping the Penguins in an elimination game all throughout the match, however, fell short due to the poor offensive efforts of the team. He has shown he can play at a high level at times, although he has struggled with consistency, I do not think we are going to see another abysmal performance from him in Game 2.
I am predicting that Jarry allows two goals or less and posts above a .920 SV%, getting his first National Hockey League postseason win and tying up the series at 1-1. If this is the case, it would be huge, not only for his confidence but the entire Penguins lineup.
Brandon Tanev Scores Two Goals, Wins it in Overtime
Brandon Tanev is just oozing to erupt offensively. The speedy winger was all over the ice last night, leading the team in expected goals percentage (xG%) and hits, earning himself a dominant presence whenever he stepped foot on the ice.
Along with Tanev, that entire line of Zach Aston-Reese, Blueger, and him were amazing and the teams best, so it would not surprise me if they got to work early in Game 2 as well. Their speed in transition, along with how poised they are defensively, is what makes them such a scary line to play against if you are the Islanders. If the Penguins can find a way over the hump, I would expect him to be a crucial part of a potential championship run.
I would predict a two-goal, 10+ hit stat line from Tanev, along with him and his linemates being among the top of the team in xG%. If Game 1 was any indicator of how this series will go, we will be seeing lots of extra hockey, and if that is the case on Wednesday, I would expect him to rise to the occasion. Even if he does not meet my expectations production-wise, I don’t expect him to disappoint in the performance aspect.
Evgeni Malkin Unexpectedly Returns, Makes Huge Impact
Now this one may be a shot in the dark, but there’s a reason I called these “bold” predictions. As of right now, it appears like Evgeni Malkin will not play in Game 2. According to Dan Kingerski of Pittsburgh Hockey Now, he did not participate in line rushes or on the power play during Monday’s practice, which is likely an indicator that he is not ready to return.
However, assuming Malkin does play, I would expect him to make a big impact on the team. His offensive presence was missed in a game where the Jared McCann-Jeff Carter duo struggled, so getting back the Russian centreman could be a game-changer, depending on which version of him decides to show up.
This was Malkin’s first season in the negatives in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), with a -0.2, and his first season since 2010-11 where he was not a point-per-game player, so many would argue that he is not that good anymore, or that he would not make a difference, but something in me just tells me he is waiting to blow up production-wise in the playoffs.
Malkin’s last two postseason appearances have not been good, with just one win through eight games, he has one goal and two even-strength points. However, take out the last two postseasons, and he has 165 points through 158 playoff games. He is a known playoff performer, and while maybe it is true that those days are gone, you can bet Penguins fans are going to be on the edge of their seats during his return, whenever that may be.
Prepare to be Pleased
Whether my predictions are right or not, I think we are all just hoping for a Penguins victory, so with that being said, I do think you will be pleased. As long as the Penguins do not stray too far from the gameplan, and Jarry rebounds, we should see a win.
PIT Penguins Writer THW. Twitter & Instagram: puckempire. Formerly a Florida Panthers writer.