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New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals Playoffs: (Ir)reasons for hope, reasons for dread

As the average fan's constitutional and nerves will clearly tell you, the playoffs are no time for rational thought.

Please say it's destiny. It's destiny, right?
Please say it's destiny. It's destiny, right?
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

There is so much analysis of NHL playoff series -- seasonlong and recent data over here, injuries over there, matchups and cliches somewhere back there -- that it can be overwhelming.

When it comes down to it, hockey is a chaotic game prone to odd bounces, rare events with inflated impact (many, many shots but few goals), and ultimately, at its widest playoff margin, this: 55 to 45. In possession, in the difference in goals, in the "odds," teams are usually playing in the range of 55 to 45 percent. Big gap in elections, close call in hockey.

So with seven games or fewer ahead to determine our fate and toy with our emotions, our emotions and dreams toy with us. We easily fall prey to crazy, irrational "reasons" for what will happen. While our better selves know physical events happen for a reason -- and random chance is often one of those reasons -- that doesn't stop us from talking ourselves into stupid superstitious or narrative-based things.


Five 'Reasons' for Hope

Destiny: John Tavares is a star; it feels like it's his destiny. It's the last season of Nassau Coliseum; gotta go out with a bang. Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk; destined to make their former teams rue the day... This has to happen, right?

History: Say what you will of the two decades-plus since the Isles' last playoff series win, the Capitals have experienced a different kind of torture. No Cups, no glory, a sweep in their lone finals, unbelievably gut-punching losses -- including (beginning with?) the Easter Epic loss to Pat LaFontaine's Islanders, plus Jaroslav Halak and the Canadiens in 2010. Crushing disappointment is in their franchise DNA, right?

Very Thin Cause and Effect: In 2013 the Isles were soooo close to having the Pens on the ropes, but for a goalie. They have a better goalie now, Tavares is even better, better kids, and better defense than that team. Gotta get past the Caps and then some, right? And remember when Kyle Okposo broke out after fighting Matt Niskanen in 2013? Niskanen is a Capital! Okposo is gonna break out again!

Cliches: Alex Ovechkin is not a Proven Winner (TM). Boom! Q.E.D.

Superstitions: I'm wearing the jersey that we are 13-5-2 with, as long as I put it on after I take the dog out but before I turn on the stove. Plus, I picked/didn't pick the Isles in that bracket. We got this.

Five 'Reasons' for Dread

Destiny: Oh God, the Rangers are good again...they drew the limping Penguins when really we should've gotten them. Meanwhile, we're stuck with the on-the-rise Capitals. Oh God, everything is wrong. The Caps will advance and lose to the Rangers and then the Rangers will move on and oh this is not how we drew up the script, but this is always how the script is written isn't it. ISN'T IT?

History: Just like the Islanders always spanked the Penguins in the playoffs until that narrative-friendly streak ended in 2013, the Isles always beat the Capitals in the playoffs No!

Very Thin Cause and Effect: Remember when some no-name dirty cross-checker ended the Isles playoffs in 2013, some guy who would never score a goal like ... oh God, BROOKS ORPIK.

Cliches: The Islanders are too young and inexperienced and still need to "learn to win." Ack! Q.E.D.

Superstitions: I forgot to walk up the west side of the street on my way home today. Plus, I picked/didn't pick the Isles in that bracket. We're screwed.

For more serious discussion of the merits of both teams and how they match up, check this post or any non-crazy discussion thread on the site. Here. We. Go...