With the offseason in full swing, the Eyes On Isles staff decided to come together and rank the best goals the Islanders scored in their successful 2015-’16 campaign.
New York Islanders goaltender Christopher Gibson will remember his first NHL start last April. The Isles were playing the team that had eliminated them in a nasty seven-game series the previous spring, The Washington Capitals.
When April 5th, 2016 came around it didn’t look the like Isles were going to get the two points they needed that night. Not only were the Caps in the midst of a President’s Trophy season, but Braden Holtby was chasing an NHL win record.
Isles starter Jaroslav Halak was injured, number two Thomas Greiss and number three Jean-Francois Berube were unable to play. So fourth stringer Christopher Gibson trudged out to the net and promptly allowed a goal on the first shot he faced.
Hamonic, DeHaan and Clutterbuck were also missing with injuries. It wasn’t much of a surprise when the Isles were down 3-1 in the third period. The one goal was scored when Hickey carried the puck in to the zone and fed Tavares in front.
Brian Strait and Thomas Hickey both left the game with injuries. Yeah, that’s right. Thomas Hickey was not expected back in this game after receiving nasty cut from a Marcus Johannsen’s skate blade in OT. You can’t tell the story of how this game ended and leave out that nugget.
But of course Hockey is a strange game. You lose an awful lot of games that you were sure you were going to win. Sometimes they go the other way.
Anders Lee and then Kyle Okposo scored about two minutes apart near the middle of the third period to tie the game. Both were results of a dump and chase followed by a lucky bounce. The Islanders didn’t have much of a line up on the ice, but they seemed to have the momentum.
But momentum means little when your franchise player drops a pass at the opposing blueline, to one of the other team’s best snipers. Thirty seconds into overtime and the comeback was about to be wasted, and the playoff clinch would have to wait for the results of a Boston -Carolina match.
Kuznetsov… breakway in OT… in Washington… Gibson’s first start? You already had the remote in your hands and your thumb was on the button to switch the channel to Welcome Back Kotter reruns, or Storage Wars, or whatever you use to drown your sorrows.
But Gibson came through. Kuznetsov was looking to pick a lower corner and Gibson stuck that right leg out and made a save that was memorable for us, as fans, imagine how memorable it was for him in his first NHL start.
And now we finally get to that goal that I’m supposed to be writing about. Tavares was a few inches from being the goat in this game after that giveaway. But Johnny gets a lot of leeway in the hearts of Islander fans. Here’s a reason.
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Tavares picked up the puck in his own zone and skated it in along the right wing. Without a clear passing lane he took a wicked shot that rebounded to the far side of the ice. Tavares raced across, passing three Caps defenders and Ryan Strome on the way. He gets the puck in fairly good shooting position but does the crazy, unexpected, genuine creative superstar move.
He spots Hickey, who had pinched, six feet to his right. Tavares hits him with a super quick semi-drop pass that changes Holtby’s angle. Before the goalie can adjust, Hickey rips it by him, high over the left shoulder.
Maybe Hickey has a little Ken Morrow in him. Like Hickey, Morrow was an offensive defenseman before making the NHL. Like Morrow, Hickey won gold for his country before making the show. And they both have knack for big overtime goals.
One more little tidbit on that goal. If you get a chance to watch the video, watch Hickey’s legs on the game winner. He doesn’t take a stride from just over the red line, to the point where he took the shot, ten feet out from the goal. Feet stick, stick on the ice ready to receive a pass. And gliding like a stealthy predator with prey in his sights.
Oh, and first two guys off the bench to congratulate him? Martin and Okposo.
As a hockey fan , it’s those little things we love. As an Islanders fan, Thomas Hickey is one of the little things we love.