‘World-class’ Sidney Crosby standing in way of Islanders yet again as playoffs schedule is set

Sidney Crosby Islanders
The Islanders kick off their first-round playoff series against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL released the New York Islanders’ schedule for their first-round postseason series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday to finally start dialing in on the start of the best-of-seven clash:

  • Game 1: @Penguins, Sunday 5/16, 12 p.m. ET
  • Game 2: @Penguins, Tuesday 5/18, 7:30 p.m.
  • Game 3: @Islanders, Thursday 5/20, 7 p.m.
  • Game 4: @Islanders, Saturday 5/22, 3 p.m.
  • Game 5*: @ Penguins, Monday 5/24, TBD
  • Game 6*: @ Islanders, Wednesday 5/26, TBD
  • Game 7*: @ Penguins, Friday 5/28, TBD

For the third time since 2013, the Islanders will meet Sidney Crosby — one of the faces in the NHL — and the Penguins in the playoffs. For head coach Barry Trotz, it’s the fourth time in five years he’s seeing Pittsburgh in the postseason dating back to his time as Washington Capitals head coach.

The Islanders had their hands full with Crosby and the Penguins this year, losing six of eight games during the regular season where the Pittsburgh captain accounted for nine points (three goals, six assists).

So is the trend of the superstar against the Islanders. He has more points against New York than any other team he’s played against over his 17-year career (122 points in 75 games). 

In the playoffs, however, he was unable to crack the Trotz code during the Islanders and Penguins’ 2019 first-round series where he was held to just a single point in a New York sweep. That was quite the far cry from the three goals and five assists he had in 2013 against the Islanders in the playoffs — which might as well have been a lifetime for this organization given the change in structural organization and competence.

The Islanders hope that they can replicate the same kind of postseason performance they had against Crosby two years ago, though it’s much easier to discuss in theory.

“He’s a world-class player,” Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock said on Thursday. “He’s been one of the best players for a long time. It’s not easy for us, but we have to play hard, defend hard, be smart, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Trotz went even further in lauding the veteran center, who continues to evolve his game as the years go by.

“Sid is world-class,” Trotz said. “I think he’s the gold standard in how he handles coaches, other players, media, how he’s represented the league. He’s just worked on his game. He’s a smarter player. He’s way better defensively as a forward at this age when he first came into the league. He can still score, he can still skate, he’s strong, he’s very intelligent as a player.

“All those things are there. He’s got a number of Cups [3], he’s played in the Olympics, all those experiences have made him as complete a player as he is in the NHL.”

What makes Crosby all the more difficult to play against is that after all these years, the Islanders still can’t quite figure him out.

“There are some tendencies, but when you’re going against a player like that, he just makes it happen,” Pulock admitted. “He doesn’t do the same thing every time. He takes what he’s given and makes plays. For us, it’s just about being hard against those guys, taking away time and space, and not allowing him the time to make those plays.”