Isles Clinch Playoff Berth; Built to “Upset”

We did it! The New York Islanders are going to the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 NHL season!  So what if it took a loser point to get there? The Islanders will be playing hockey in May for the first time in two decades.

A point earned in a 4-3 shootout loss to the 13th-place Carolina Hurricanes doesn’t sound great (the game really was not), but the Islanders resiliency despite a poor game made it just fine. With the way the game was played, the Islanders had no business being in this one. Broken plays, bad giveaways, missed passes, and lost pucks were abundant. It was almost like a frustrating game of NHL 13. Every time the Islanders touched the puck, it seemed like they lost it just as fast as they got it. Like I said earlier in the day, the Islanders would have to earn it.

With 1:01 left in the third period, the Islanders gained entry into the offensive zone. Of course, the puck wound up on John Tavares’ stick during the game’s most crucial moment. A centering pass to Okposo was well-covered by Justin Faulk, except the puck ended up deflecting off of Faulk’s skate and behind Dan Ellis.

Long Island woke up. Twitter erupted. I heard you, Isles fans. The game was tied at 3, and the Islanders only needed to hold off Carolina for the final sixty-one seconds. They did. Winnipeg’s loss a few minutes later sealed it. Ticket-punched. No more anxiety. The New York Islanders are heading to the playoffs.

You’ll get your game recap in the plus/minus section below. Right now, I’m just happy. We’re just happy. For the first time in my adult life, I get to watch the New York Islanders in the playoffs. There’s an entire generation of New York Islanders’ fans that haven’t been old enough to even enjoy the Islanders and the playoffs. I mean, I was only three years old when the Islanders won their last playoff series. This time around, I think they may change that.

No, we have no idea who the Islanders will play when the playoffs begin. Currently, the Isles match-up with Washington. That could be it. There’s also the possibility that the Islanders face the Boston Bruins. There’s the outside shot that the Islanders face the Pittsburgh Penguins. Maybe the Islanders leap into fifth and play the Montreal Canadiens. All I know is that we will be there, and we will be one of the best teams going into this thing.

In their last 15 games, the New York Islanders are 11-1-3. In their last ten games, the Islanders are 7-0-3, and the Islanders are 8-0-3 in the month of April. The Islanders will not have home-ice advantage in the first or second round of the playoffs, but do teams really want to face the Islanders when they’re on the road? The New York Islanders are 14-5-3 on the road in 2013, and currently 8-1-2 in their last 11 away games.

Teams aren’t going to want to play the Islanders. They keep the games close. It’s funny. You may not have felt that when the Islanders fell 7-0 to the Flyers in February – NYI’s worst home loss in franchise history – but here’s a fact. Through 46 games, the Islanders have been tied or leading in 33 of them after two periods, 5th most in the NHL to only Pittsburgh, Chicago, Boston, and Vancouver. Nope, the Islanders aren’t an easy out. In fact, the Islanders are more like a massive headache.

They don’t go away. The Islanders are actually 2nd in the NHL with a winning percentage of .455 (5-4-2) when trailing after one period. That’s second in the NHL next to Pittsburgh; and, if they’re leading after one, the Islanders make it difficult for their opponents to catch up. They’re 13-2-1 (.813%) when leading after the first period, a sign that the Islanders have learned to play with leads, which is something they haven’t been able to do in years (.640% when leading after one period in 2011-12).

The Islanders may cause some fits in the playoffs this year. Call me whatever you choose, but I see a path where the Islanders can make a bit of a run through a few teams this postseason. You can question it all you want (if you dare). I remember a few people telling me my 7th-place prediction was “way too optimistic” and I was “certified crazy”. Well….

Key Play of the Game

The key play of the game came in the third period. The Islanders never touched the puck.

On a routine dump and chase play, Nabokov went behind the net to play the puck. He flubbed it. The puck ended up on the stick of Tuomo Ruutu. With an empty net to shoot at, Ruutu did his best Nate Thompson impression, hitting the post and keeping the game at 3-2 Carolina.

All I’m saying is that there would be a heck of a lot more nerves if that puck went in tonight.

Honorable mention: JT’s goal, obviously. Couldn’t have done it without that either.

Plus/Minus

Plus:

  • I’m sorry for ever questioning Kyle Okposo this season. Kyle created the first goal, and was the intended target on the first. I hate your stupid move, Kyle, but I’m so glad you haven’t stopped moving your feet at all this season. That’s two more assists, giving Kyle 20 on the year.
  • Josh Bailey has arrived, and I believe it’s for good. He’s playing in the clutch for the Islanders, and almost won the game in the final minute. Oh, he also scored his 11th goal of the year, putting him on a 25-goal pace over 82 games.
  • Was thrilled to see Bailey shoot the puck on a 2-on-1 late in the game.
  • Some huge saves by Nabokov in the second period.
  • John Tavares scored when he had to, even if it wasn’t the prettiest goal, and even if it was not the intent. Argument is there for his MVP candidacy.
  • Brad Boyes scored his 10th of the season. He also added 5 shots on goal.
  • Keith Aucoin was buzzing around the net all night.
  • Brian Strait: hardly noticeable with five blocked shots. Just how I remember.
  • The Islanders second-line has become legitimate.
  • The 4th-line had several scoring opportunities. I thought Jesse Joensuu was going to get one tonight.
  • Matt Martin had a few chances. Dan Ellis just stoned him.
  • Josh Bailey could have scored a few more.
  • Wow. Carolina had zero power-plays.
Minus
  • This one wasn’t pretty.
  • Dan Ellis stood on his head. #DanEllisProblems, except that hashtag was created because Dan Ellis usually had the problems.
  • Nabokov allowed a very soft goal to start the game.
  • The Islanders could not hold on to the puck.
  • The Islanders could not gain entry to the offensive zone.
  • Visnovsky played a poor game tonight, and the first goal went off of his glove.
  • If this team needs one thing to get going, it’s their power-play. Back to basics, boys.
  • Isles were simply out-muscled and out-worked by a team that wanted to play spoiler.
  • The Isles went 0-3 against the Hurricanes this season, the only team they could not defeat.
  • Frans didn’t score in the shootout. Boo.

The Islanders are now 24-16-6 with a two-point cushion in the sixth-seed. Several hours after I wrote the Isles weren’t getting help, the Jets lost to the Caps, and the Rangers lost to the Panthers. Four games left before hockey at the Coliseum returns!

Thanks for reading! WE GOT PLAYOFFS! Comment away!

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About the Author: Writes at Islanders Op-Timism. Islanders Season Ticket Holder who tends to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hofstra Graduate currently working at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates. I definitely want to end up working within the world of hockey. Blog: www.IslandersOptimism.com E-Mail: ChristopherTriantafilis@gmail.com Twitter: @ChrisTriants

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  1. KO21 says:

    I guess matt&dan are eating their crow? They sure is hell arent posting any articles. Those guys suck