Photo: Jim McIsaac/Newsday
No one mentioned the Islanders as a Stanley Cup contender when the season started. It did not change in the postseason. In fact, the hockey wonks picked them to lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games of the East Division first-round playoffs.
The Islanders made those “experts” look like fools after eliminating the Penguins in six games on Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum. They exploded for three goals in two minutes and 59 seconds of the second period to take a 5-3 victory over the Penguins. This is the third straight season the Islanders advanced to the second round, so they must be doing something right.
Don’t expect the experts to apologize. They will double-down by picking the Boston Bruins to beat the Islanders in the second round. If the Islanders prove them wrong again, these people will pick the next Islanders’ opponent to beat them. In other words, if an Islanders fan expects any respect from prognosticators, don’t.
Good for the Islanders for not crying about lack of respect. It would be a waste of time, and it would do no good. It speaks well of the culture Islanders head coach Barry Trotz and Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello created for the players to not whine about it. I learned a long time ago that prognostications are useless.
But no one can blame them if they complained in this circumstance. The Islanders advanced to the second round two seasons ago after sweeping the Penguins in the first round, and they advanced to the Eastern Conference finals and took the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning to six games until they lost in overtime last season. This should be enough to earn respect, especially when they are coached by the best coach in hockey in Barry Trotz.
Everyone looks at the Islanders as a nice cute team that can win one round, but then when it comes to moving up, they look at them as a team that will get exposed. Look for that analysis in the coming few weeks or months. It’s ridiculous.
No one denies the Islanders don’t have the skill and speed of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche or Vegas Golden Knights. Still, they can win the Cup on grit and great coaching. The Islanders also can counter those skilled teams with great goaltending, and they have one in Ilya Sorokin, who is a difference-maker from watching him against the Penguins in his four starts that resulted in four wins.
This is a team that has plenty of playoff experience these last few years. This should count for something. There is a perception that the Islanders are a defensive team that takes advantage of other teams’ mistakes. While it’s true, this team can score and generate offense themselves as they showed in this series against the Penguins.
The Islanders don’t need an expert to tell them they are a great hockey team. The players know they are, and Trotz knows he has a championship-caliber team.
Still, it would be nice if they received some respect from some people in the media. For the fans, it would mean something in a sense there is respect from the media.
Even teams don’t respect the Islanders that much. You never hear coaches gush about them. You never hear players be complimentary about them. The Tampa Bay Lightning did not have many flattering things to say about the Islanders in the Eastern Conference finals last season. It’s a sure bet they won’t this time around, either despite the Islanders taking them to six after losing in overtime. Don’t expect the Boston Bruins to say anything nice about their upcoming opponent, especially their blowhard play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards.
The Penguins did not learn their lesson from the last time when the Islanders swept them in the playoffs. They did not think much of the Islanders before the series started. They just talk about playing their game and not get caught with the Islanders defensive play. The Penguins actually played well for most of the series. They just lost to a better team that knew how to frustrate Tristan Jarry, who imploded in the second period on Wednesday night. There’s no shame in that.
At some point, people need to stop saying the Islanders have been getting lucky and start realizing they can win it all.
The Islanders are 12 wins away from getting the Stanley Cup.
Not even the wonks and teams can say they got lucky if they join the exclusive company of many teams that won the grand prize.
It could just be that the Islanders are actually that good.