The New York Islanders have been performing feats that resemble the franchise of old. Two back to back 100 point seasons for the first time in over 30 years. Overtime victories by a defenseman not accomplished in decades. Overtime winners in general not seen for many years. The Islanders are holding a 3-2 series lead for the first time since 1993. The Isles also vanquished the dreadful stat of losing game 5 in every series 11 straight times. However, there are three things that the Islanders will be able to accomplish tonight if they can defeat the Florida Panthers at the Barclays Center: First, win back-to-back games in the playoffs for the first time since in over a decade, win a playoff series since 1993 and finally learn to finish off a team when they have the advantage.
This is again going to be a simple preview of game 6 and, if need be, game 7. Last time I wrote that Thomas Greiss was going to have to put up a shutout or only give up one goal in for the Islanders to win. Sure enough in game four, the team gives up only two goals and could not get anything else going in the Islanders loss and then in a stunning double overtime, Greiss allows the one goal in a 2-1 victory over the Panthers. I’ll write this now, make Greiss a non factor in this game. What do I mean by that? I mean let Greiss be his calm, cool, collective self and still dominate, but the offense must score at least three goals this game. It must happen. It has to happen. Keep Florida on their heels and don’t let them get many opportunities. Slowly suck out any momentum or hope they think they still have and just finish this series. Sounds easy right? Not with this Islanders team. Nothing ever is. This is a growth moment and the rewards are life changing.
Which players should be the catalysts for tonight’s game. Simple again: Travis Hamonic, Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Matt Martin, & Josh Bailey. Five core players who may in fact be playing their last home game as Islanders (I’ll get into Bailey later, but some conspiracy theories believe he’s not on this team next year) if they lose this series. If he plays, add Marek Zidlicky to this list as well. For Zidlicky, this might be his last chance at a Stanley Cup so there isn’t a bigger drive than that. The core players mentioned above have been here from the beginning of the organizations rebuild. Nielsen has been around long enough to have seen good and really bad times. They were brought in here to exorcise all the demons that this organization and it’s fan base has suffered through for the last 25-30 years, from different ownerships & Mad Mike Milbury to Nassau County and saying goodbye to the beloved Coliseum. This New York Islanders team made remarkable strides this year in making their own history while joining the ranks of the old dynasty. However, a win at Barclays tonight is the biggest form of healing not only for their fans, who have suffered the most, but for these core players who have been through such tough times to get to this point. To finally win will be such a relief as much as confidence going into the next round. It’ll be contagious, infectious to their other teammates that it’ll rub off on them as well. They won’t know what to call this feeling immediately but when they get the chance to sit back and think about the word, it’s euphoria. The fans will be cheering like they just won the Stanley Cup and if you thought Barclays was loud before, get ready for some euphoria if the Islanders pull this one out.
A win tonight by these core players and their teammates, who are very well aware of the situation, completes the long overdue cleansing of this organization. They’ll be rid of the demons of over a decade ago by winning two playoff games in a row. David Volek, Ray Ferraro, Glenn Healy and the 1993 Islanders can finally go quietly into the night in Islanders history and will always be remembered for taking out Goliath that was Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and the defending Stanley Cup Penguins. Finally, the Islanders players themselves will learn what it takes to take the next step forward into the playoffs and they won’t know how to feel because of the overwhelming joy Islanders fans will have for them and it will stay with the players for the rest of their lives. That overwhelming feeling alone will give them the motivation to want it again in the second round. Go get euphoria boys, it’s yours for the taking.