Entering these playoffs, many had suggested that this could be a short second season for the New York Islanders. Most “experts,” those same experts who had predicted 14th or 15th in the Conference again for the Islanders, had the Pens winning this series 4 games to 1. Now let me be clear, Pittsburgh has every reason to be Stanley Cup bound. They have a deep, talented team that added the necessary pieces for a long playoff stretch. Also to be fair, they also showed in game one why they are one of the best in this League. Having said that, here the Islanders are with a series tied at one and they’re only two games in. Who predicted that one? Of course you did.
For me as I’ve stated before, this team is completely unpredictable. Nobody can predict what the Islanders will do or how far they will go. This is all new to everyone, including the players, which is why I believe the Islanders got stage fright in game one. They had no clue. This was not juniors or the World Championships, this was for many their first taste of NHL playoffs and when you don’t have a clue you need to learn what it takes to win a playoff game, that includes the coaching staff. So with the first game done, the Islanders licking their wounds, they took in what they had learned, made the changes and we patiently watched for a different yet better result. The toughest part was applying what they had learned. What they learned was that they needed to be resilient against a team that is playing desperate hockey with a ton of pressure on them. Also the Islanders needed to learn when enough was enough and then it happened.
I go back thinking to the January 29th game against Pittsburgh. There the Islanders went into the Pens home ice and humiliated them by winning 4-1. Not only was it a wake up call for the Pens, the Isles may have inadvertently awaken a sleeping giant. From then on, the Pens went on a tear and never looked back. Last night, the Pens may have awaken another sleeping giant and it’s not just Kyle Okposo I’m talking about. Okposo’s fight would have been meaningless had the Islanders not stormed back to win the game.
What fans saw last night was unity, a bond, a brotherhood, a cause and with a cause they found belief. Belief that yes, this Pittsburgh team can be beaten against the worst odds if they can maintain a physical presence and continue to get in the head of Marc-Andre Fleury. It doesn’t matter if Crosby and Malkin score in the same game, if the Islanders truly believe and have that hunger, this team as a whole has a chance to be magical.
Speaking of magic, did I mention that the next three out of four games are now gonna be played at Nassau Coliseum? Talk about another learning experience. The fans are about to show the players what a full house of Islanders fans truly feels like and if the players learn anything from that, they’ll learn how to keep that environment going for years to come. Pittsburgh players have no clue yet, head coach Dan Bylsma was never here during the playoffs (asst 05-06), so believe me he’s worried and they should be.
From @StapeNewsday: Pens coach Dan Bylsma: “Our players have not seen this building like the way it’s going to be tomorrow.”
The Islanders took their first learning steps last night, tomorrow will be another. What they do with what they learn is up to them, but it should be exciting to witness. I envy the fans tomorrow, teach your Islanders what it means to wear the crest on their jersey and they’ll never forget it. Ever.
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