It’s said that championships aren’t always won by the best team but by the team that gets hot at the right time. For a team that limped into the playoffs, the Islanders, who, to a man have elevated their game, now resemble a team of destiny.
They are hitting on all cylinders and, to date, have forged ahead of a very worthy opponent. After 50 years of watching hockey, I can honestly say that we are watching history in the making. This is an epic series that will be remembered forever as one of the best.
From Kyle Palmieri to Travis Zajac, Josh Bailey and Mat Barzal, the Islanders have come to play. Not only have these players shaken off the dust of mediocre seasons, but they are leading the charge to a championship. That’s right “The Drive” is officially on and the fifth cup finally feels within reach.
Even Coach Barry Trotz, his system, and the goaltending, which have never been in doubt, have reached a new level of excellence in the playoffs. Semyon Varlamov’s play in Game 5 was the best effort I’ve ever seen from a goaltender surrendering four goals.
Varly was sharp and bailed the Islanders out when it mattered most. He kept his team in the game early and allowed the Islanders to get into their game. So far, Varly has done to Boston what Ilya Sorokin did to Pittsburgh.
The fourth line is skating, hitting, and checking with relentless energy. Each man feels a sense of obligation to himself but more importantly to his teammates and the organization to elevate his game.
There is no doubt that the Islanders are feeling confident and leaving their all on the ice after every shift. You can feel that the players understand the moment and how close they are to the prize.
I don’t expect to see anything different on Wednesday night than we’ve seen so far. Boston will come out like a house on fire, sending wave after wave of pressure on the Islander net.
If the pattern holds, Varly will give up an early goal before the Islanders take control and settle into Islander hockey. At that point, the system with superior execution by the players will take over and the opportunist Islanders will be too much for the Bruins.
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As they return to the Old Barn for Game 6, the Islanders can be assured that their fans will be on top of their game too. Their energy and collective voice as well as the ghosts of the Islanders past glory, that is unmistakably present in the Barn, will rattle the Bruins and keep the Islanders juiced. It’s going to be a great game befitting this epic series.