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Islanders Back & Forth: The Play(off series lead)’s the Thing

A weekly look at the Islanders’ most recent - and next few - games. Mostly.

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New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game One Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

The regular season ends and the playoffs begin with a bang. That’s a lot for just two games.

First, let’s look back at the (heart-pumping) week that was.

Last week for the New York Islanders:

Game 56: 3-2 OT loss to the Bruins

This game already feels like it was played six months ago. It’s pretty irrelevant at this point but it was nice to see the Islanders look like themselves... for two periods at least. The overtime beauty by who else - Taylor Hall - still stings but by that point, the standings had already been set.

Props to Barry Trotz for at least trying to get the regulation win by pulling Sorokin in a tie game with about two minutes to go. It didn’t work but you have to respect the coach’s hustle.

Playoff Game 1: 4-3 OT win over the Penguins

Oh man. Where to even begin? Even though the Penguins led after two periods, I thought the Islanders looked okay. Not great, obviously, but better than they’ve looked over the last month and change and maybe a tiny bit better than they did against Boston almost a week ago.

The third was all Islanders and they deserved their brief lead even if the goals were on the soft serve side. Kaspari Kapenen’s tying goal took the wind out of everyone’s sails but I was comfortable with how they had played and felt that win or lose, they could play with these guys. If that doesn’t sound like much, please remember how down in the dumps I’ve been about this team since just after the trade deadline.

Does this one game redeem Palmieri for his lackluster regular season with the Islanders? Who cares! The 1-0 lead in the series is all that matters from today until the puck drops on Tuesday night.

Record for the week: 1-0-1

Regular Season Record: 32-17-7

Playoff Record: 1-0

Next week for the New York Islanders:

Tuesday, May 18, Thursday, May 20 and Saturday, May 22 vs the Penguins

I guess I didn’t think this format through the playoffs...

So what can the Islanders do to take command of the series? For starters, maybe stop turning the puck over so much. Second, Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle will need to be better. Both were pretty quiet before overtime on Sunday and although the second and third lines were generally pretty good, the Islanders will need those two players to create havoc in the offensive zone if they want to be successful. The fourth line ran around a little in the defensive zone, which is never much fun to watch. If they can roll four lines like they were able to do in the third period, they can keep the good times going.

(By the way, I spent about six hours listening to Keith Jones’s “analysis” in both East Division games this weekend and the above is about as insightful as he was. Which is to say, not at all. Never has a guy had such a long career in broadcasting without ever saying anything interesting, informative or entertaining ever).

A snarky answer to the opening question would be, “Get Semyon Varlamov back” but I think Ilya Sorokin was also good in yet another surprise start. He was screened on the first goal he gave up with a big schmoz in front of the net, and Sidney Crosby’s one-handed tip around Andy Greene was just a heckuva play. The Kapanen goal might have been stopped but it was a good shot, too. Sorokin did a lot to keep the game 2-1 when the Islanders were still looking for their legs.

By the time I write next week’s column, my mood may be totally different than it is now. So watch this space for more!

Predicted record for the week: 2-1? I don’t know.

Canadian Sportswriters Say The Darnedest Things:

What the hell?

The Penguins will win if … Crosby, who ranked amongst the top-10 in scoring, continues to produce at a 92-point pace.

The Islanders will win if … Crosby ends up with no goals and one assist, as he did two years ago when the Islanders beat the Penguins in a first-round sweep.

Prediction: Islanders in 5.

Back in 2017, Michael Traikos literally didn’t know who Anders Lee was, calling him just “a sixth round pick” that was lucky enough to skate alongside John Tavares. Now he’s picking them to beat the sainted Penguins in five? My how the worm has turned.

Meanwhile, columnist Cathal Kelly, who’s been shoveling trash for years, just goes straight off the deep end, making the case that the Penguins need to ditch Sidney Goddamn Crosby so that both they and he can thrive again. This article has to be seen to believed and would be ludicrous if it were printed even after the Penguins were eliminated, let alone after they lost the first game of their first round series.

It’s in everyone’s interest – the Penguins’, Crosby’s, the NHL’s – that Crosby move somewhere else. Montreal has always been the dream destination, narratively speaking. Imagine Crosby reinvigorating the league’s most storied franchise?

The NHL could run wild with an ancien régime vs. arrivistes storyline pitting Crosby and the Canadiens vs. McDavid and the Oilers.

The only way to reconcile the two men existing in the same space, both the best of their time, is to make them on-ice enemies. Crosby leaving Pittsburgh to return to Canada makes that possible. It’s something you might even be able to sell to Americans.

So, in the best interests of hockey, the Pittsburgh Penguins must die.

Ahhhhh. I get it now. The old “well, if you don’t want him anymore, WE can take him” article. If Crosby got traded to any Canadian team, Kelly and his ilk would be the first people to meet him at the airport and throw rose petals at his feet and beg him to play until he was 50. For now, he’ll just stay mad that this great Maritimer has a valid U.S. driver’s license.

Alternate Programming Options:

And now for something completely different. A couple of weeks ago, my all time favorite podcast returned and I couldn’t be more excited. You Must Remember This is a fascinating and fantastic ride through 20th century cinema and beyond, and is a consistently great podcast packed to the gills with fun (and sometimes not so fun) facts.

Hosted by writer Karina Longworth, each episode is a deep dive into one contained story about a person or a movie or a scandal, while also being (usually) a part of a larger season-long narrative. This season focuses on “Gossip Girls” Luella Parsons and Hedda Hopper, the twin towers of Hollywood gossip whose influence is still felt today. Previous seasons have looked at the infamous Blacklist, the intertwining lives and deaths of Bela Legosi and Boris Karloff, the unique career of producer Polly Platt and the show business links to the crimes of Charles Manson.

Even if you’re not a big cinephile, there’s guaranteed to be an episode that piques your interested. I can’t recommend it enough and could spend all day listening to it if possible.

Classic Islanders Clip Just For fun:

These two teams go allllllllllllllllllllllllll the way back. Like you, I’m hoping the Islanders can add one more stuffed penguin trophy to their collection.