The mystique and repeat battles of the playoffs make it tempting to tie everything into a narrative, connect every game to every other game, treat the components of each series like rounds of a boxing match.
Psychologically, that dynamic is what ramps the fan intensity ever upward, an uncapped charge of emotion that the actual players must avoid. (For example, if the Islanders trail tonight, how quickly will some think, "Ugh, this series could be hopeless by 3 o'clock Sunday.")
Yes, the New York Islanders must step up their game tonight. They must channel their emotions to productive results. But they can't let that intensity take them too far (e.g., sending two forwards to check one guy, or nearly kneeing another because you want so badly to hit someone).
They also can't let the narrative lead their focus astray. In the simplest terms: The Islanders need to emerge from tonight with a 1-1 series split in Pittsburgh. If they do so, the series is on track.
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But doing so requires the attention to detail, execution, and calm concentration that comes when a player remains focused shift by shift, rather than dwelling on the big picture of what a win or loss tonight means. It's how the Islanders went about their methodical April march to the playoffs. It's how they need to approach things to prevent an 0-2 hole.
Some players looked too amped up in Game 1. Others looked like they took the need for calm too much to heart. But to a man, just about everyone looked bad.
The consolation for Islanders fans who have suffered far worse things than a loss in the opening game of the playoffs, is that no matter what we get to take in how this young team responds.
[Phil] Bourque said he saw Eaton during the past couple of years when Eaton was playing with the Islanders and wasn’t impressed.
"I actually am surprised," Bourque said. "I thought he was done."
"I think we want to stay above [Tavares]. That team is pretty lethal if you give them opportunities in transition. So we want to stay high above them. You can slow them down by playing physical against him. Wear him down. Make him have to fight for every inch on the ice. I think that’s our focus with a lot of their players."
"He probably makes that line tick but [Moulson and Boyes] are really good players when the puck is on their stick. [Tavares] is kind of the guy who makes a lot of the plays through the neutral zone and carrying the puck but when those guys the puck on their stick, they’re pretty lethal."
Morrow is no stranger to the spring ritual of getting opponents to think about easier things.
"[the doctor] is comfortable with me getting hit at this point," Crosby said.
--the Post and everywhere
The Islanders should be very comfortable with Crosby getting hit too.
Aside: At the World Championship, Nino Niederreiter was given player of the game. Corey Pronman called it "maybe the best game I've seen from him this season." Good. Goooood.
As reported all over the place, and nicely organized by Seth Rorabaugh of the Post-Gazette:
14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 9 Pascal Dupuis
19 Beau Bennett - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 12 Jarome Iginla
10 Brenden Morrow - 16 Brandon Sutter - 24 Matt Cooke
15 Tanner Glass - 36 Jussi Jokinen - 27 Craig Adams
58 Kris Letang - 4 Mark Eaton
5 Deryk Engelland - 7 Paul Martin
3 Douglas Murray - 2 Matt Niskanen
6 Matt Moulson - 91 John Tavares - 24 Brad Boyes
12 Josh Bailey - 51 Frans Nielsen - 21 Kyle Okposo
41 David Ullstrom - 10 Keith Aucoin - 40 Michael Grabner
13 Colin McDonald - 53 Casey Cizikas - 17 Matt Martin
NO NOT AT ALL! Sounds like Capuano went blender after Game 1. Reports are:
...and yet Staple has Martin-Cizikas-McDonald starting. Who knows. Game on!
3 Travis Hamonic - 47 Andrew MacDonald
11 Lubomir Visnovsky - 7 Matt Carkner
2 Mark Streit - 37 Brian Strait
Yes, the Crosby guy is back. And yes, David Ullstrom looks to be going in for Marty Reasoner, while Matt Carkner looks like he'll replace Thomas Hickey, which is ... well, that's a change for Lubo.
Get your playoff First Islanders Goal picks for tonight's game in here by 6:59 p.m. EDT.