Game 1 of the first round playoff series between the Islanders and Florida Panthers is still a couple of days away, but the intensity and energy has already reached the "C'mon, we're really doing this? Ugh. Fine" level.
Get Your Bow Tie On
Bill Torrey was the general manager who led the Islanders from their inception in 1972 through 1992 and built the club's four Stanley Cup dynasty. But he's been with the Panthers since their inception, too, first as team president now and serving as a special advisor. As such, he knows who he's rooting for hardest in this series and said so to many reporters today.
"And I'm happy for the Islanders. I'd rather meet them in the Finals, or in this case the Conference Finals, but I still have family that lives on Long Island, and they have mixed emotions, but I don't. It's all part of it and I mean it sincerely...I'm looking forward to this series. I will have strange emotions I suppose at different times. But I sure as hell want to win."
Torrey also talked about the two teams' similar struggles to rebuild, his ever-present familial ties to the Islanders and his feelings on Barclays Center ("I don't really want to get into that, because it's a little bit political, but I have my own emotions on it" and "Brooklyn means nothing to me. Other than I used to be a Dodger fan.").
He does admit to checking in on the Islanders to see how they're doing during the seasons, but now, it's all about the Panthers, as it should be for him. You have nothing to apologize for, sir.
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Coach on Coach Violence
After three days, lots of people still feel the Islanders intentionally lost their game against the Flyers on Sunday in order to play the Panthers, rather than the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. This despite the fact that in the last month, the Islanders have lost Jaroslav Halak, Travis Hamonic, Anders Lee, Calvin de Haan, Cal Clutterbuck and Jean-Francois Berube to injuries long and short term.
Even the usually diplomatic Elliotte Friedman isn't buying what the Islanders are selling.
(Boy, if Friedman thought Garth Snow was hard to extract information from before, wait until Garth sees that clip).
Another in the same boat is Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who took time out of a Rangers practice to comment on who played and who didn't for Jack Capuano's team on Sunday.
"Each team has to do what they feel they have to do. The Islanders did what they thought they had to do, and we did what we thought we had to do. At the end of the day, it's their team, their organization."
Whoa! Them's fightin' words, mon ami! I mean, I guess. I myself am allergic to trash talk.
Anyway, Capuano responded to Vigneault's slings and arrows with a little box score knowledge of his own about the Rangers' final game of the season, their win Saturday over Detroit.
"The only thing I can say is, watching his game on Saturday, I thought he did the right thing and I did the wrong thing," Capuano told Newsday. "He benched [Derek] Stepan and [Rick] Nash with 13 minutes left in the second after [Eric] Staal got hurt. I thought that was the right thing to do.
"On the flip side, Johnny [Tavares] and his line, I put them out 17 minutes [against Buffalo on Saturday], power play, offensive-zone faceoffs and they scored to tie it and then I kept them going out until two minutes to go. I was the one that was wrong in that case."
Capuano noted that the Rangers started Antti Raanta in goal rather than Henrik Lundqvist and their ice-time leaders were two rookie defensemen, Dylan McIlrath (22:57) and Brady Skjei (22:04), and fourth-liner Tanner Glass and rookie call-up Marek Hrivik led their forwards in ice time on Saturday.
If all of this sounds incredibly stupid, that's because it is. Still, it's funny to see the amiable Cappy drop the hammer pretty hard on Vigneault like that. I'm sure the Rangers' coach's response to the Islanders' coach's response will be just as pithy and probably include a spirited defense of Tanner Glass.
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Place Your Bets
Playoff predictions are pouring in already and, basically, no one is picking the Islanders to beat the Panthers. That includes the bookmakers of Las Vegas, as Bovada.com has them the underdog.
The rest of the series' betting lines are below. As for candidates to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, Bovada has John Tavares' odds at 40/1, Kyle Okposo's as 75/1 and Thomas Greiss' at 50/1.
Of course, they also have Greiss still listed as playing for San Jose (which he hasn't for three seasons), so let that be your reminder to bet responsibly.
New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers
New York Islanders (Series Price) 5/4 (+125)
Florida Panthers (Series Price)
New York Islanders win 4-0 12/1
New York Islanders win 4-1 15/2
New York Islanders win 4-2 5/1
New York Islanders win 4-3 5/1
Florida Panthers win 4-0 9/1
Florida Panthers win 4-1 9/2
Florida Panthers win 4-2 17/4
Florida Panthers win 4-3 4/1
Number of Games
John Tavares 1st Round Points
Kyle Okposo 1st Round Points
Frans Nielsen 1st Round Points
Brock Nelsen 1st Round Points
Jonathan Huberdeau 1st Round Points
Jaromir Jagr 1st Round Points
Alexander Barkov 1st Round Points
Jussi Jokinen 1st Round Points