If you tuned into the NY Islanders game against the Buffalo Sabres on March 6th via ESPN+, you would have seen former NY Rangers captain and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Callahan and co-analyst P.K. Subban mocking the Isles claiming their style of play is "boring." True to their nature, Islander fans gave Callahan and Subban a fair amount of criticism for their comments. The Islanders themselves likely don't care what the ESPN panel had to say that day. Still, they responded with a fair amount of excitement winning the game that night late in the third period on Hudson Fasching's controversial game-winning goal and an exciting overtime win in a crucial game against the Pittsburgh Penguins two days later. On the latest Jeff Marek show via Sportsnet, Callahan had the opportunity to expand on his beliefs and actually complimented the Islanders claiming they're built for the playoffs.
“You’re spot on Jeff, I completely agree with that statement," Callahan said after Marek claimed the Islanders are built to succeed in the postseason. "I was doing studio work with ESPN a couple of weeks ago. Me and Subban made a joke about Islanders hockey being boring and not too fun to watch. Islander fans, as per usual, jumped all over me. I don’t think I was their fan favorite anyway to begin with. To be honest with you, it’s a compliment."
Callahan has 49 career games againat the Islanders. He's seen them enough to know their style of play and to speak to whether or not they're playoff material or not. Despite the jokes, they were never a team he and his teammates took lightly.
"That’s what they are, a team that wears you down when you play against them. It’s the style they play through the neutral zone, especially. It can frustrate a team, and force a team into mistakes. I remember any time we played against them, you’d go in and see guys visibly frustrated before the game started. They’d be like ‘ugh, we’re playing the Islanders tonight, we gotta work for everything we get, there’s gonna be no cookies out there.’ It’s a compliment. As I said, it’s not the most exciting brand of hockey to watch, but it accomplishes what you need to get done, especially in the playoffs where everything tightens up a little more, and everyone squeezes their stick a little more. Scoring seems to go down in the playoffs, especially late in a series… The Islanders are comfortable playing that style of hockey, they’ve played it all year, and they have the system to do it. It’s from their top guys to their fourth line that plays that same style and that’s what frustrates teams. You never get a break from it. You mention (Ilya) Sorokin as well, you finally do get an opportunity or a chance against them, which is hard to get, and all of a sudden you have to beat Sorokin. It’s a team I look at (if I’m a top playoff seed) and I say ‘I don’t know how well we made out here playing a wild card team if you have to play (the Islanders) because you know it’s going to be a battle of a series and you’ll have to earn every inch.’”
Hesitent to answer Marek's question because of his Rangers and Lightning roots, Callahan eventually admitted that although he hated playing the Islanders, he felt his style of play would have fit well in their system. So sure, Callahan called the Islanders boring, but he respects them and knows they have what it takes in the playoffs. Now isn't that all that really matters?