You will not enjoy this. This will not be fun for you. This will not evoke happy memories from your past. You're probably better off not reading it, to be honest. But you will read it, friend. You'll read it and you'll like it.
It pains me to even think about this game, about this play. See, I really like Jaroslav Halak. I was very happy when Garth Snow traded for and signed him. And I’m sure Jaro must’ve been happy to feel wanted, having already been traded twice that season. We didn’t just want him, either; we needed him. His predecessor left us completely unfulfilled, his good chemistry with Stan Fischler notwithstanding. Jaro was a much better fit, hockey-wise, what with him not being terrible at stopping pucks and all.
It was a perfect fit, actually. Halak had a great first season with the Islanders. He made the All-Star team. He broke a few of Billy Smith’s franchise records: consecutive wins (11) and total wins in a season (38). He was the shit, straight up. It was all going so well.
Until the night of April 7, 2015.
Here's what happened on that fateful night in Philadelphia. It was game no. 80 for the Isles, who only needed one point to clinch a playoff spot.
That seemed unlikely with twelve minutes to go and the Flyers up, 4-1.
But the Islanders would come back.
The late surge is keyed by John Tavares, who takes over at the faceoff circle. Down by two, under two minutes to go, two o-zone faceoffs, two primary assists. Two two two two two. The number two.
That game-tying goal was particularly sweet. Let’s look at it one more time before I ruin the mood around here.
This was a slick play by no. 91. But it’s also hard to properly express just how preposterously bad the Flyers were off this faceoff.
So the Islanders surprisingly complete a three-goal, third-period comeback, tying the game with 28 seconds left. And as Travis Hamonic dumps the puck in with 15 seconds to go, that one point is looking like a damn near-certainty.
But then this happened:
Oh no, Jaro. No, no no no. It can’t be. How did that garbage even go in? Did that actually go through his body?
Yes, Brayden Schenn lobbed a sinker that went right through Halak’s body, like magic. And with the taste of vomit still fresh in my mouth, what an appropriate time to see our old friend, Brian Strait.
So why does it still pain me to think about this play? Because the Islanders fell 2.1 seconds short of gaining at least one point in Philly, and they fell one point shy of having home-ice advantage in round one vs. Washington. So I’m incapable of separating the brutal Game 7 loss to the Capitals from this game in Philly.
That’s not a particularly fair or rational way of thinking about it, no. There’s technically nothing different about this loss from any other that season. What if they didn’t blow a 3-0 lead in St. Louis in early December? What if they didn’t blow another 3-0 lead in the very next game in Minnesota? What if they didn’t blow a two-goal, third-period lead in the season finale against Columbus, with home-ice directly at stake?
This is a flawed, and ultimately pointless, line of thinking. But I’m a flawed, ultimately pointless kind of person. So I can’t help but think we came 2.1 seconds away from extending life at the old barn for at least one more round. If you were at Game 6 against the Caps like I was - that being the last game ever played at Nassau Coliseum - then you know full well like I do that there was no way in hell the Isles would’ve lost Game 7 at home. Tom Wilson could've decapitated the still-standing portion of the Isles defense and they still would've gutted out a win had the game been played in that building. Can we prove this? No. But I’m saying it anyway, and I’m right.
Now look, I’m still perfectly happy entering the season with Halak as the 1A in the team’s goalie tandem. The goaltending should go back to being an area of strength for the team, like it was the season before last.
So I’m still down with Jaro. And I got nothing but love for him, truly.
But I don't trust him, and I doubt I ever will.