About the Author: We are two long time hockey fans who certainly have our own opinions and points of view. Feel free to share yours. Follow on twitter @joshbarely
To start off, if you have been reading our blog this season, thank you. We appreciate the time you take for such, and the comments left on the page. Especially the combative ones, because it shows the passion that Islander fans have for their team.
Also, if you have been reading this blog this season, you know that we like to point out the vast shortcomings of this organization, as they provide us with talking points regarding their ineptitude. And we like our little catchphrase to describe such: “more of the same.” So, get ready for more of the same from all parties involved.
To start with: Islander fans, rejoice! Our team had taken a five year leave of absence from the hockey postseason, but now they have returned. As we predicted in our early season writings, 53 points was indeed the magic number for the 8th seed in the East, and Long Island ’s own made it with 2 points to spare! Kudos to them for such. As we have pointed out, every recent branded rebuild took roughly 5-6 seasons to return to the playoffs. Those teams – Los Angeles , Chicago, Pittsburgh- did not win the cup in the year they returned to the playoffs, so folks, expect to lose in the first round.
If you want us to predict the series outcome like every other prognosticator does, Pittsburgh wins the first round in five games, and maybe even four. The Islanders will rise to a higher level of play for sure, but have you seen Pittsburgh’s roster? Holy cow! They have FOUR guys that scored at over a point a game average versus the ZERO Islanders that pulled off that feat. The Pens first line was a +87, compared to the Islander first line being -11. Their top D pairing was a + 48 compared to our top being a -10. They have a defenseman that outscored every Islander not named Tavares or Moulson. This isn’t a knock on the Islanders. Pittsburgh has multiple players that could easily post 80-100 points in a full season. This means they score against everyone…all the time…or at least a lot of the time. The Isles will also need to score. John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Cuba Gooding Bailey, Visnovsky and Streit are going to need to put pucks in the net. Of course you need to play good defense, but in this series the Isles chances will be there and they will need to capitalize. The experience is a given, so these games should be measured by results, not effort.
The Penguins have one defenseman that was a minus on the season, to our six minus defensemen. This tells us that even strength goals against are scarce. Therefore, power plays will play a huge part in this series. So, The Isles will have to draw penalties, the refs will actually have to call them, and The Islanders MUST score.
The Penguins collected other team’s captains at… no wait, BEFORE the trade deadline, versus Garth Snow looking to move his captain and second line center to Chicago for an inexpensive rookie. The Isles answer to the stacked roster is to dress Marty Reasoner. This is the guy that was so good and important to winning that he barely played while the Islanders were trying to make the playoffs, however, now he is deemed a key player for the playoff run.
Although Marc Andre Fleury isn’t a goalie that imposes fear into our hearts, their backup is Islander-killer Thomas Vokoun. One could argue that Pittsburgh could start their backup goalie and sweep us, keeping the starter fresh for a 3 round playoff run.
Remember when Chicago won the entire first half of the season? Pittsburgh has almost as many points.
Fans will point out to the last time this team won a playoff series, which was against the Mario Lemueux/ Jaromir Jagr/ Ron Francis/ Paul Coffey defending champion Penguins and they’ll say “We were as big of underdogs then, and we won!” That part is true. What isn’t true is that although that team lost Pierre Turgeon to a dirty hit by a piece of garbage Dale Hunter, they still had Ray Ferraro, Steve Thomas, Benoit Hogue, Derek King, and Vladimir Malakov to provide offense, and Rich Pilon and Darius Kasparaitis to provide pain in the defensive zone. If this team was down a Tavares? Do you have faith that Newsday’s “most improved” nice guy Josh Bailey puts up a Ray Ferraro 13-7-20 in 18 playoff games type of run? Or that Joe “Road Cone” Finley would flying leap onto Matt Cooke after a dirty play? Nah uh.
Bottom line is, man to man, Pittsburgh is better. The Islanders do have a chance to take the series, as any team would. However, there is no room for error. No posts, no bad line changes, no bad penalties, no Marty Reasoner…oops, guess we are already in the hole. They need superstar Tavares, not all-star Tavares. They need 40 win Nabokov, not end of the season Nabokov. The second line must continue to play like a second line. They are career second-half all-stars, let’s hope they can continue to produce and not treat round one as the first half of the season.
That being said, understand that when we’re talking about a potential blowout, we’re not saying that as a negative. We’re saying that because we expect a newly minted playoff team to lose in the first round. It’s called growing pains. They’ll need to lose to understand how to win. We are OK with that, as it’s part of the learning curve. We just hope it’s something the ENTIRE ORGANIZATION figured out, and not just the players. If a first round loss is the best Jack Capuano can do, it’s time to replace Jack Capuano with a winning head coach. If Garth Snow makes no moves to improve his team in the offseason and expects 5 rookies and the waiver wire to make this team a deep playoff run contender, it’s time to replace Garth Snow. If there is no payroll flexibility after selling out three unplanned revenue producing home games, it’s time to replace Charles Wang. Actually, that’s overdue. That time should have been October 2012, after he announced that he was moving Long Island ’s only major league team into the City then did nothing to pump up the payroll or the fan’s excitement level. The lessons here need to find a wider audience than the locker room, or else this rebuild will put the Islanders back to square one- where this rebuild started, a first round losing playoff team and wait for it…more of the same.