So the 23 year “curse” or whatever you want to call it ended last Sunday with the New York Islanders defeating the Florida Panthers in game 6 of their opening round playoff series. Words could not describe how good that made me feel. I would even say that when JT scored the overtime game winner, it was a rather emotional experience for me personally, as my mind looked back on the years since David Volek’s overtime winner against the Penguins and all that has happened to the Isles since then.
Then, on Wednesday after I had spent the day walking the fields and hills of Gettysburg and was awed by the history and the solemnness of those 25 square miles of American history from what was the turning point of the Civil War in 1863, I was thrilled and, yes, surprised by an Islander 5 to 3 victory over the Lightning to open the second round. Well, let me say that I was thrilled by the first two periods of play …
When I look back to just a couple of weeks prior to the season ending and how it did honestly seem, for a brief time, that this team might not even make it to the playoffs at all, I can’t believe that the Islanders will be playing hockey in May. I will go as far as saying that I had my doubts that they would get out of the first round again …Let me be clear here. I am proud and happy that the Isles have made it this far, and I believe that they can get to the next round as well. On paper, I think the team is much better than they have demonstrated themselves to be at times. Some may disagree, but in my humble opinion, I think the roster is good enough to get to the Finals, in fact.
However, the important factor here is that the roster on the ice has to play to the level of the one on paper. Thus far, for the most part, it has been Thomas Greiss and John Tavares who have been the two major reasons why the New York Islanders are in the second round at all.
I will not even try to argue the point that the Florida Panthers out played the Islanders throughout the series. As Gary pointed out on our last sportstalk1240.com (WGBB radio) show, statistically, the Islanders and the Panthers were pretty much even. However, when it came to controlling the play and the effort on the ice, the Panthers dominated in my opinion.
Nevertheless, I think back to what Jean Potvin used to say when he was doing the color commentating with Barry Landers on the Isles radio broadcasts, “good teams find ways to win”, and I am struck by the 4 games the Islanders won to defeat the Panthers. Somehow, this team found ways to win and managed to rise to the occasion when it was needed the most. Certainly, there were huge saves by Greiss and big goals by Hickey and Quine and Tavares, and that is how good teams progress through the playoffs.
You can certainly attribute the current success to “luck”. Be my guest. If you are a Panthers’ fan, in fact, that’s probably how you are describing the series as far as how your team was eliminated. I won’t debate you on that point.
The thing is, you can’t rely on luck every night. Greiss and JT can’t be the ones carrying this team every series. It was great that Shane Prince got a pair of goals in the first game, but that is what is needed. Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, Nikolay Kulemin, Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen … everyone has to contribute.
On top of the secondary scoring and amazing goaltending, I’d also like to see a sixty minute effort. If there is one major complaint I do have thus far is the fact that the Islanders have yet to put in a full sixty minute game from opening face-off to final buzzer. If you consider that they won in the first round in six games and won the opening game in the second round without a full game’s effort, hopefully, it can be understood as to Why I believe this team can make it to the finals. The problem is, for reasons beyond my understanding, we have yet to see the kind of effort and energy for a constant full game as we did last season from the New York Islanders.
The series resumes shortly at the time of this post, and I look forward to a great set of games. My hope is that the New York Islanders on the ice will become the team on paper that should be able to move on to the next round.