The New York Islanders have been here before. Doubters, haters, and everyone in between runs their mouth now but come playoffs aren’t sure to how to feel.
Here we are again. With the playoffs not far away at all, it’s fair game to start looking at what the New York Islanders can do to actually make this post-season run worth it — and we’re talking a deep, deep run.
As is well known, New York has been successful only because of what the rival Rangers have been doing, particularly last season, but now could be the perfect time for the real underdogs to take flight.
In fact, here are three major reasons to believe that the Islanders are the team to watch in this year’s postseason:
1. No Pity For Pittsburgh
Mar 29, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Derrick Pouliot (51) shoots from the point against pressure from San Jose Sharks center Tommy Wingels (57) during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
As the standings currently indicate, the first round match up for the Islanders would come against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sure, Pittsburgh has a handful of future Hall-of-Fame talents in Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but if you were to look at how this kind of series ended last time it happened you’d be surprised.
It was too close for comfort.
Not only have the Islanders been here before — and trust me, experience in the East against teams like Pittsburgh it goes a very long way — but they have improved leaps and bounds since they last met with the Penguins in the 2013 playoffs.
More from Eyes On Isles
- Islanders key to success: Load management with goalies
- Islanders Zdeno Chara trending in the right direction
- Islanders: Semyon Varlamov Deserves Benefit of the Doubt
- Islanders Ilya Sorokin becoming number one goalie
- Islanders Zach Parise Was Quiet in Return to Minnesota
Not to mention that in the season series the Islanders have won three of four against the birds.
The first game of that series ended 5-0 in a blowout win for the Penguins, but after that, the Isles made the proper adjustments and took the Penguins to the brink leading up to an ultimate collapse in an overtime thriller Game 6.
Bottom Line: No more playing nice in New York
Did I mention that three of the games were decided by one goal, with two of them going to overtime?
If anything, the Islanders want to be the roadblock for the Penguins this postseason because there’s only one way to get the most flavorful revenge.
Just add ice.
2. Halak In Net Has Proven Heavenly
Mar 21, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; New York Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) knocks the puck away from New Jersey Devils right wing Steve Bernier (18) during the second period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
John Tavarres has always been, and predictably always will be, a star for the Islanders and incredibly huge role mode for the people of that region. A great guy on and off the ice, Tavarres has stuck with New York despite some decent, bad, and even the ugly seasons.
Sounds a lot like the majority of the Islanders fan base.
Without exception, he’s carried the team. That’s how it was last time they were even in the playoff conversation, actually. But with some help and stability coming from goalie Jaroslav Halak, New York has been able to become more than just a one man show.
Halak is to New York what Quick is to Los Angeles
Yes, of course a goalie is not exactly the only important member of a team, but it’s the one guy brave enough to step between the other team and victory and take the blame for it (or the pleasantries that come with big wins).
Halak thus far has posted a 36-16-2 record with a 2.42 GAA (goals allowed per game) and a saving percentage of .913% — whoa. Showing a lot of improvement at the goalie position has overwhelmingly done so much for a team that’s lacked confidence year in and year out in times prior, and as they continue to show night after night, it’s safe to say they can compete with anybody.
3. Some Things Can’t Wait
Oct 29, 2013; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders left wing Matt Martin (17) and New York Rangers right wing Derek Dorsett (15) fight during the second period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
With a potential second round series involving the winner of the projected New York Rangers / Washington Capitals opening round, the Islanders would honestly ask for nothing better. After getting fair revenge against Pittsburgh, thanks to the new NHL playoff formatting, the Islanders would get a chance at either the in-state rival Rangers or the contending-yet-clueless Capitals of Washington.
Take your pick.
When put up against the Rangers, a hockey team known for being physical — thus why last year’s Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings was beyond entertaining to watch — the Islanders seem to change up their strategy to out smart rather than out gun the other team from New York.
Bottom Line: Everybody loves an underdog
Here’s another noteworthy mention, relating of course to the playoff scenario two years prior (same year NYI played PIT) where the Rangers fell in the Conference Finals to the heavy underdog New Jersey Devils. Coming into that match up, the Rangers were ranked as one of the best teams in the league while New Jersey found itself floating at the bottom as a dark horse.
Guess where the Islanders find themselves this year?
All in all, the Isles just need to be sure to look into tape of how the Devils were able to deconstruct a bigger, more physical team on the other side of the ice. Yes, the team players may not all be the same, but Henrik Lundqvist, a world class goaltender in his own right, will be waiting.