Old Bethpage, N.Y.-Maybe it’s time to start putting things in perspective here. The Islanders were picked by no one to win their first round tussle with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fine. I get that it was a long shot. Islanders faithful mostly embraced the match-up. Was it ideal? Of course not. Fans certainly felt like the Isles were world beaters, but knew the Penguins would be a tall task.
Look at what the two other teams we were fighting with for the 6 seed did in Round 1. The Ottawa Senators dispatched the Montreal Canadiens easily in 5 games, and the New York Rangers just slid by the Washington Capitals in 7.
By now, you are well aware of the ins and outs of the Isles/Pens series. You know how the Islanders gave them all they could handle and then some. The Penguins are what the Rangers wish they were, and have tried to be, for the last 20+ years. The Penguins are an All-Star team: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla alone have been selected to a combined 14 All-Star games, without even taking into consideration the other additions, like Douglas Murray, Jussi Jokinen and the reemergence of Tomas Vokoun.
But take this stat into consideration: In their last 6 games, despite 2 blow out losses, the Islanders let up 4.16 Goals Per Game against Pittsburgh. The Senators? Well, they were manhandled and demolished in almost every way possible by the Pens. They let up a staggering 4.4 Goals Per Game in the series they lost in 5. They showed very little heart and little fight.
I will, however, give their fans credit. Scotiabank Place was certainly rocking. The fans came to cheer, not sit on their hands. That, of course, is unlike the fans of a certain other New York team that plays in a “famous” arena a mere 28.1 miles from Uniondale–an arena which one NBC Sports commentator referred to as “a morgue.”
So, how does this reflect upon the Islanders? The Senators were able to sneak a game past Vokoun and the Pens, but that’s it. The Sens did finish above the Isles, winning a first round series, and after 3 games in Round 2, it looked as if the Penguins may get a run for their money. But, then the 3rd period of Game 4 came along, the Pens scored 4 times, and for all intents and purposes, the Senators were finished.
It’s quite evident that the boys in blue and orange gave the Penguins a lot more than they, and the media, expected. Sidney Crosby, public enemy #2 on Long Island (next to Kate Murray), even called John Tavares a “complete player.” That’s high praise coming from Crosby who, love him or hate him, is one of the best, if not the best player in the NHL.
Scouring the posts around the internet after Pittsburgh put Ottawa to bed, it seems as if this has pumped up Isles fans even more for October. Isles fans feel even more excited after the Pittsburgh victory. After all the Isles lost in OT twice in the series–a few bounces here, a call, or non-call, there and we could be writing some very different blog posts.
But this is all part of the learning experience. They have to start somewhere. Even the Isles dynasty had to overcome adversity. The 1975 team, which laid the ground work for the Cup teams, beat the Rangers in 3 games, then had a comeback for the ages, beating Pittsburgh 4 games to 3 after going down 3-0 in the series. They did the same thing versus Philly in the next round, only to lose in Game 7. 5 years later they were champions.
I am not saying that it will take 5 more years, but this team is definitely ready to ‘Wow’ us again. The next big game, the Isles’ Barclays Center debut, is under 4 months away. Isles hockey can’t come back soon enough.
Until then, we will keep watching the playoffs and scouting our future opponents. A blogger’s work is never done.