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Editorials

Islanders Have Developed The Killer Instinct

TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 07: The scoreboard displays that the New York Islanders win over the Florida Panthers period in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 07, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 07: The scoreboard displays that the New York Islanders win over the Florida Panthers period in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 07, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
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Islanders fans couldn’t relax with their team-leading until they were back in their car.  No win was enjoyable due to always being in fear of a collapse.

New York Islanders fans remember all too well that feeling of impending doom.  For years, The Islanders would take a two-goal lead into the third period and as the intermission report would wrap up, that pit in your stomach would appear.

Never enjoying your team’s success and having confidence in their abilities to close out a game is no way to be a fan. I was as guilty as anyone for always expecting the worst.  I think we all remember the infamous picture of what seemed like eight Islanders laying in the crease as the tying goal goes into the back of the net.

But now, with new coaching styles, a complete roster, and a few hardened calluses from years past this team knows how to win.  Knowing how to win is a skill in itself just like special teams and creating offense.  It requires a different strategy and practice.

As your opponent’s desperation grows, your margin for error dissolves.  That is why closers are so important in baseball and two-minute drills are so difficult to stop in football.  The other team plays with urgency and focus because their backs are against the walls.  To close out a win you must meet or surpass that urgency and focus, the Islanders now do that.

In Game Five, with a chance to close out the series, the Islanders raised their game.  They allowed their lowest shot total of the series (21), gave the Capitals only two powerplay opportunities, and had by far their highest blocked shot count at thirty-one.

The third period of Game five was a master class on sucking the life out of your opponent.  While that period won’t make any highlight reels, it was a breath of fresh air for Islanders fans.  It seemed as if as soon as the puck entered our zone, it was already heading back towards Braden Holtby.

The Islanders chipped the puck from the defensive zone, to neutral zone, to the attacking zone, and regrouped defensively for all twenty minutes.  The Capitals, while having possession of the puck for much of the period never seemed to really threaten the net and didn’t even get a shot on goal for the final twelve minutes.

This was only the fourth time in my life the Islanders advanced to the second round and my heart rate didn’t elevate once.  With about four minutes left I think I even checked the channel guide to see what else was on.  That’s how in control the Islanders were to end this game and I couldn’t be happier about our new killer instinct.

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