April 8th Pittsburgh Penguins at Toronto Maple Leafs
At the end of the season the Islanders slim playoff chances needed some help. You never want to have to get outside assistance but a cold stretch put the Isles in a hole. They needed to win their final three and have Toronto lose their final three. It turns out that this was the only game of that stretch that kept the Isles out.
New York won its final three games (they ended the year on a six game win streak) and Toronto lost two if its last three. The Maple Leafs dominated this game but couldn’t put pucks in the net.
Thanks to Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby the Pens and Leafs were tied at two heading into the final intermission. It was a weird sight, but Islander fans had strapped on their black and gold for the third period.
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The Penguins struck first in the final frame on a fluke goal. Pittsburgh led 3-2 and the Islanders could smell their playoff hopes increasing. With six minutes to go in the game though the Leafs would tie the game sending the nervous crowd at the Air Canada Centre into frenzy.
It wasn’t over yet though for the Islanders. This game looked like it may be heading to overtime and although it wouldn’t be ideal they could afford for Toronto to lose in overtime.
With less than three minutes to go Connor Brown broke the heart of Islander fans. The Leafs took the lead and didn’t look back defeating the Penguins 5-3. The Islanders would go on to defeat Ottawa the next day and the Leafs lost to the Blue Jackets.
If Toronto had lost this game Sunday may have been different but it still hurts to think about. The Maple Leafs were still trying to alter their seeding Sunday so I would like to think that had Pittsburgh held on, the Islanders may be in the playoffs.
Granted, anything could have happened if the Islanders had gotten that extra point in any of these games. It may even seem a little ridiculous, but I can’t help to think these games could have significantly helped. It could be like a movie plot where they go back and change the past but wind up altering other things from the future.
Maybe the Red Wings would have played better, or the Flyers wouldn’t have gone into a shell down the stretch. You just never know in hockey, but adding a point here and there certainly wouldn’t have hurt.
If this shows anything, the Islanders need to finish better in 2018. That could mean finishing better at the end of games or at the end of periods in general. This team didn’t find their fight until late in the season and it cost them. Do I think they would have beaten the Capitals? No, probably not. Was there a chance? Of course there was.
We can only hope the team will take that passion and heart we saw in the final 35 games and show that for a full 82 next season. There is certainly reason to be optimistic about the Islanders future. Hopefully I won’t have to watch the first round of the playoffs a year from now feeling as envious as I do right now.