The Islanders did not win the Atlantic Division Title and finished Fifth, one point short of division champ Philadelphia.
Eighth overall for a team dead-last a year ago by ten points.
Fourth best turnaround in NHL History.
Nothing will diminish how much heart this team showed to beat out a Devils team that went to the last two finals and were unbeatable down the stretch. They got no help on any out of town scoreboard as every team in the race went on winning streaks.
It’s been the Islanders best season since they were an NHL Dynasty in the early eighties.
As a team all expectations of the regular season were met and beyond….as a team and clearly as an organization.
As individuals, several players underachived in a league that saw it’s lowest offensive output in fifty years at both the NHL/AHL levels.
The Islanders are not an easy team to figure out because of the scoring inconsistency but one thing about this team that was consistent all season is that they found a way to win when they had to. Michael Peca called it character and without a doubt it cannot be denied they had that and more when it counted most.
The Islanders were one of the top scoring teams in the Eastern Conference and the NHL overall, and yet several players did not meet the expected numbers.
The Islanders got points in every game but one on the road in the Atlantic Division all season. They won the season series against Toronto and Boston.
It’s going to be a fun series and one the Islanders wanted, they could have taken it easy the final day to pick a team that had more wins against. Clearly they feel they can win against anyone.
The regular season has to be thrown out when it comes to a playoff series, it’s not one night where teams are traveling and playing three in four nights, while the one team is already waiting and rested.
The coaches have more time to prepare, study the opposition and come up with a game plan. There are no ties and no ot ties. No one sits back and plays for one point.
Players learn and adjust to opponents on a game to game basis and with each passing game it becomes a shift by shift basis.
How Jonsson/Aucoin handle Toronto’s offensive pressure will go a long way in deciding the series. The Isles got open ice in the four games and had space to counter with quality chances, they may be counting on that because the Leafs do not play a trap, but they are going to have to earn every shot.
Peca-Sundin may well be the most important matchup.
What few know is it just may be Dave Scatchard assigned to handle Sundin, as Peca will be needed to provide offense if Yashin is not ready or his line is not producing.
Corson-Yashin: We all know Corson shut down Yashin with the Senators, we all know he has not been a big time playoff performer. What you may not know is he outdid Bobby Holik’s shadow the year the Sens upset the Devils. If Yashin’s healthy it’s up to him to put up the points.
Osgood-Joseph: Osgood will be the underdog to Curtis Joseph in goal, despite the fact Osgood won a cup and has been a solid playoff performer, while Joseph has seen little hockey since SLC but is ready after his hand injury. Joseph is an unrestricted free agent
this summer and has given up some bad goals in the last few playoffs.
It’s time for the wake-up call to the Islanders we know have not put up the points if they expect to advance.
Yashin (see above) Peca has to be a two-way player and contribute on offense and take some slap shots from outside as the forwards crash the net.
And the Isles must crash the net and work the Leafs outstanding defenders. Tomas Kaberle had one minor all season, they need to make him play physical and put impressive rookie Wade Belak on the defensive. Bryan McCabe is outstanding and will be a handful as will Cory Cross.
Isbister, Czerkawski, must give this team some goals at key moments and play at the speed of the game going on around them. Parrish must contribute every game, Bates has to be flying and working hard for his chances and finish a few. Scatchard needs more goals like he scored in Tampa, which was his best move of the season and an idea of what he can do when he is on his game. Lapointe and Blake have to get quality shots from their chances and see if a few find the net.
Can Kvasha keep scoring ? Maybe, but there is no excuse not to be skating.
Outside of when Radek Martinek was healthy
the defense is playing it’s best team hockey of the season as a unit. Tarnstrom returned to the lineup for two of the final three games, Eric Carins saw extra work with Roman Hamrlik in the final games. Darren Van Impe has played outstanding at both ends of the ice.
Kenny Jonsson by all reports is healthy. Adrian Aucoin has played fantastic defense all season and is due to break out again on offense. Roman Hamrlik has been scoring and stepping into the play.
Osgood has to keep his team in the game and handle the pressure, no doubt as several teams did in the final weeks of the season Toronto will get in his crease and try and get him off his game.
Islanders should match-up ok with the Leafs powerplay.
They have not scored a shorthanded goal since the final game before the Olympic Break in Philadelphia, but have been on a good roll lately. Sundin, Mogilny and co are going to have to get in the corners and really outwork Jonsson/Aucoin/Hamrlik/Van Impe and Laviolette will play Jonsson and Aucoin big minutes.
Islanders power play has to get quick shots and not work the puck around the perimeter as much as they have done for a while. Usually they find themselves taking the same shot from the center of the ice after all that passing. The power play rarely has set up players for open nets this season, it cannot be expected to begin now.
They must change a few things and get in front of the goalie, as opposed to setting up ten feet out. They must not stand around and make it easy for the Leafs, and have to be active and moving to force players out of position. They cannot be outnumbered on the puck during powerplays, something that has happened a lot recently as the team has looked passive even with five on three advantages.
Pat Quinn is an outstanding coach, this is nothing new for him.
Peter Laviolette is coaching his first playoff game and no doubt is here to win and has his players thinking the same thing.
He clearly is not going to tolerate anyone not skating and made a bold statement in the final game against Philadelphia when he rolled the same five players for almost four full minutes. From that moment on the Islanders controlled the game and it was very impressive.
The only real danger here is that sometimes when a team is trying to do too much they make mistakes, and that can be hard to correct.
Isles are playing with nothing to lose, it’s a complete turnaround by the organization in every way possible and were honored in Nassau County’s offices yesterday, as Mike Milbury and Charles Wang were on hand.
Ok, I’ll take the heat if I am wrong, but why not ?
Isles in six…..