clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Fear and Loathing in the Playoffs: Second round email therapy

Coaches, changes and the half Nelson are among concerns keeping us awake at night.

We need you, man.
We need you, man.
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

For the second round of the playoffs, Mike and I thought we needed an extra session of email exchanges to discuss what's going through our heads. It's all very stream of consciousness, but these are strange times for Islanders fans.

*   *   *

From: Michael Leboff
To: Dan Saraceni

I still can't really get my mind around this whole second round thing.

The Islanders are still playing hockey and there are only seven other teams also doing that. It's just odd that there's still real Islanders news going around and that I'm not wondering how Brock Nelson is doing at the Worlds (and given his play, I wonder if he's thinking the same thing). I thought after the first game I'd kind of get used to it - but nope.

And now that we're playing in another series, I want it just as bad as the first one. Especially after seeing Brian f***ing Boyle f***ing celebrate. I know the hit was high and it was late and it was blatant interference and the ref was staring at it, but it's over and now I want the team to show that resiliency.

I worry about Game 4 at all waking hours. I know this team's makeup has been "down, but never out" but this is the first time they've trailed in a series this year so I just worry that a stinker on Friday and this thing could get away from them fast.

I think Jon Cooper is some sort of hockey soothsayer. The man knows how to manage a game in a suit. I think the biggest difference in the series is that the Lightning are getting what they need out of each of their players and the Islanders are not and to some degree that's because they can't get the most out of their players when one of their best players is sitting in the press box. I thought Strome played very well in the first game and the whole team kind of had a dud in game 2 - so I really don't get it, so it goes.

Going down 3-1 would suck.

From: Dan Saraceni
To: Michael Leboff

Going down 3-1 would indeed suck and a stinker on Friday would probably be too much of a hole to overcome. Some teams you can see coming back from a 3-1 deficit, but I'm not sure the Islanders are one of them (judging by many of the comments at Japers Rink, lots of people don't think the Capitals are one, either). But then again, who knows with this team?

The Strome situation is made more irritating by the Nelson situation and vice versa. Both are inexplicable to those of us on the outside. I thought Strome looked good in Game 1, setting up Shane Prince for two goals. Nelson meanwhile continues to fire blanks and be a general non-factor at a time when Josh Bailey and Nikolay Kulemin - guys who have struggled mightily or have just been plain forgotten about this year - have been noticeable in positive ways. I was heartened to read that there's no personal rift between Capuano and Strome, which soothed fears of another Neiderreiter Standoff. But I think we'd all prefer to see Strome out there and have the Islanders live or die with their most talented line-up on the ice.

One more thing about Bailey, by the way: it cracks me up that Islanders fans spend an unhealthy amount of time dissecting, critiquing, nitpicking and in many cases outright despising his game and indeed his very existence. And yet, I'll bet money that a vast majority of hockey fans outside of New York/New Jersey (maybe) have never even heard of the guy, despite his being in the NHL since 2008.

Cooper and Capuano make for an interesting pair. One guy seems very cerebral and almost detached from what's going on and the other guy looks like he hasn't left the rink in months. One guy's playing his struggling young forward and he looks like a genius. One guy is sitting his struggling young forward and looks like he's scrambling for answers. Generally, I think Capuano's acquitted himself well this postseason, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that I'm scared about Game 4 and whether the buttons he pushes continue to be the right ones.

Which isn't to say I'm not grateful for what's happened this Spring. In two of the three games of a second round series, the Islanders have been equal or better than one of the team's earmarked to win the conference. That's a far cry from what we were doing at this time just two seasons ago. I'm trying to just sit back and enjoy, but it's almost impossible to do when it's my team. Efforts like Game 3 - even when the Islanders come out on the short end - make it easier.

I'd like for people to take the Islanders seriously going forward and putting up good performances against a good team on the big stage is key -- even if one local radio host thinks they're a third-rate organization.
From: Michael Leboff
To: Dan Saraceni
There's one team in this series that I think could dig themselves out of a 3-1 hole, and it is not the Islanders. The way they've had success is by hanging around and being opportunistic, so they need to remain in striking distance. It makes me sick just thinking about this all.

The two coaches are an amazing juxtaposition. They both were relative unknowns in the coaching-sphere before they got tapped, yet, like you said they couldn't be more different. I thought Cappy did fine in the first series because both teams seemed happy to just roll four and see who comes out on top, this series is much more of a chess match and that heavily favors Cooper.

The Nelson thing concerns me because the dude has scored 25 goals in back-to-back seasons. And there are times when he's captivating and seems like he can't be stopped, but for some reason since the "pick your shit up" soliloquy he has seemed to play worse. He's been the 13th best forward on the team this series and its killing me because he's the type of weapon that other teams should be fearing, not exploiting.

I think the whole fanbase is grateful at this point and you hear the words 'house money' slung around the Barclays Center like "obstructed views" at this point. I, too, can't thank my lucky stars for being in the second round but at the same time we all know how hard it is to even get to this point and it would be a shame to see things end for this group. I'm trying to put off those "happy to be here" feelings until this ends, whenever it does. And to that end I'm happy with the way the team is playing. There's been no signs of "we did what we had to do, now lets go home" type attitude, which worried me a bit before the series.

As for Pope vs. DP, I'd rather everybody just "werry" about the games instead of logos on the carpet or a radio-feud.

From: Dan Saraceni
To: Michael Leboff
I haven't thought for a while about the future of this group, because when I do I get sad.

There used to be a time when roster turnover was as much a part of an Islanders' season as Butch Goring malapropisms. But much of this team has remained together for a few years now and I'm not eager to see too many of them go. We know (or, at least, we can expect) that Travis Hamonic's trade request will be honored at some point. That's going to suck. I think we've all come to appreciate Kyle Okposo's contributions, but we know the realities of the salary cap will probably drive him towards greener pastures. Even Matt Martin, who a few years ago I routinely forgot was even on the team, would look weird in a different jersey. And Frans... no, I don't want to think about it.

So it's important that I soak up as much of what's going on in these playoffs as possible. Reading all of the articles about the series has been both great and exhausting. It's nice to see the Islanders finally get some media attention, and even nicer that guys like Thomas Hickey are finally getting in on the action (I hope Calvin deHaan is up soon). And all of the "Islanders experience bumpy transition to Brooklyn" articles have magically transformed into "Islanders find a home in Brooklyn" articles six months later. Go figure.

But reading them gets my juices flowing and my hopes up to an almost unhealthy level. They make games like Game 2 even more disappointing because I was dreaming of that 2-0 lead. Kinda like how I'm currently dreaming about a 2-2 series. Oh god.
From: Michael Leboff
To: Dan Saraceni

One thing that's different is that this series feels like it has some real hatred brewing. It feels really good to hate Brian Boyle and Ryan Callahan again but at the same time that could make losing a whole lot worse. Seeing Brian Boyle shaking Thomas Hickey's hand after a loss would make me quiver. On the other hand, seeing Hickey smiling down that line....

From: Dan Saraceni
To: Michael Leboff

The thing I've always hated about Boyle that Henry Hudson facial hair he grows every postseason. A human that big with a goatee/mustache combo like that looks like he should be an inflatable figure outside of a seafood restaurant. I've never had much of a problem with Callahan, even when he was a Ranger, but that could change.

Like the Panthers, if not for the fact that the Islanders are playing them, I could see myself rooting for the Lightning, especially against some Metro Division rivals. I just don't want to start thinking about that alternative tonight, though.