The end of one series brings about the beginning of another, with a very, very different opponent.
First, let’s look back at the (funny, then not so funny) week that was.
Last week for the New York Islanders:
Playoff Game 5: 3-2 2OT win over the Penguins
I have never laughed so hard in my life at the conclusion of a game. Never.
In 30-something years of watching this sport. I have seen some weird, wild shit. Some of it ranging from scary to spectacular to silly.
But Josh Bailey’s goal - courtesy of a giveaway by Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry and following a 48-save performance from Ilya Sorokin that kept the Islanders afloat in a game they had absolutely no business winning - made me break down in tears. I laughed so hard that I couldn’t breathe enough to explain to my very confused wife what the hell was so funny.
A lot of it had to do with the play itself, of course. Jarry had defenders from his own team on either wall to safely pass to in that moment and instead chose to hand the puck off to the guy in the white jersey streaking towards him. Ooops! But what really made it hysterically funny was that I had spent the previous 80 minutes (!) of game time absolutely terrified that the Penguins would win. I was as tight as a drum and locked in a single position for the entire game. I had to remind myself to breathe. The tension was almost unbearable.
So when Bailey scored that goal, my worry instantly dissipated and I had a dramatic mood swing in the other direction. I felt punch drunk immediately. I sat there laughing on the couch for a good 10 minutes, just relieved that they had won, happy they were coming home for Game 6 and proud that they had taken the game on a goal that the Penguins, their fans and hockey watchers everywhere won’t ever forget for the rest of time.
I doubt a situation like that will ever happen again, so thanks to Josh Bailey (and Tristan Jarry) for making that happen.
Playoff Game 6: 5-3 win over the Penguins
Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello’s assault on the Islanders record book continues. In addition to once again eliminating the hated Penguins, this win was the Islanders’ first series clincher since I was a junior in high school. That’s... a very long time. I can understand why it took that long in very simple terms (bad for long stretches, then never good enough to win a round or have home ice advantage) but still, that is an almost mindboggling statistic.
Barry doesn’t care. The players, as discussed by Scott Mayfield, want to put their own banners up to match the old ones they play and practice under everyday. Ever since the new regime took over, it seems like a new record or mark is set every few weeks. Players are doing things Islanders haven’t done in decades. Some have been here long enough to have moved up on the all time franchise lists, which in itself is pretty crazy.
It never gets old in the moment and I feel like when we eventually look back on this era, we’ll be amazed at just how much was accomplished and how much of the team’s record book was altered.
Playoff Game 7: 5-2 loss to the Bruins
It’s hard to say this was unexpected. We knew the Bruins would provide a much, much stiffer challenge than the Penguins, if only because Boston doesn’t employ a cornhole board as a goalie. And as predicted, the Bruins’ insane first line carved up the Islanders and more or less controlled the entire game,
BUT! It was still 2-2 after two periods, which is par for the course for the Islanders this post-season. Get outshot, out possessed and generally outplayed, but keep the score close and strike when you get the chance. Coming out of the second intermission, I still felt they had a chance to win the game. Even after Charlie McAvoy scored in the third period, I thought for sure the Islanders would tie it and go to overtime. Then David Pastrnak happened and that hope flew out the window.
I spent the better part of the last month and a half of the season being acutely, perhaps irrationally, often uncomfortably angry every other night, watching this team lose games I felt they should have won thanks to generally sloppy, careless play. I thought for sure that the Islanders would miss the playoffs entirely. When they clinched, I thought they’d get swept.
Then a funny thing happened: They won, eliminated the Penguins again and I felt at peace. I was wrong and was very happy about it. They managed to flip at least “a” switch (mostly the one labeled, “Sorokin”) and pulled it together enough to tack yet another playoff round onto their total. After going 23 years without advancing, the Islanders have done it three straight times now and four times in six years.
So I wasn’t too upset about this loss. If they lose the series to the Bruins, I’ll be bummed and concerned about the future, but I feel like this season has already given us a good amount of happy moments. I still feel the Islanders are in good hands and the guys in charge know what they need to be a Stanley Cup contender. It’s getting there that’s going to be difficult.
Record for the week: 2-1
Playoff Record: 4-3
Next week for the New York Islanders:
Monday, May 31st at the Bruins, and Thursday, June 3rd and Saturday, June 5th vs the Bruins
I broke these out separately because I think Nassau Coliseum will make a big difference. The Bruins went years without losing on Long Island, but the Islanders broke that hex four times over this season. The crowd noise might not rattle the Bruins, who are used to it. I’m hoping it energizes the Islanders to play crisper and edgier.
If these games play out the way Game 1 did, it won’t be a long series. If the Islanders can spend a little more time in the Bruins’ zone and in front of Tuukka Rask’s crease, they could have a chance to win a game or two. If Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle can assert themselves as we know they can, then the Islanders have a real chance.
We know Leo Komarov will be on their other wing and he’s not Anders Lee or even close to it. But at some point, these two guys will need to put pucks into the net with more regularity (or at least some regularity, in Barzal’s case). Without that, this will be the final stop in their Islanders’ ride this season. I’m hoping they figure it out.
Predicted record for the week: 2-1.
Canadian Sportswriters Say The Darnedest Things:
Ken Campbell, the longtime writer for The Hockey News, announced on Friday that he was leaving the magazine after a combined 25 years. That’s a long, long time to be at any job, and I’m sure Campbell is beloved by his colleagues and friends and has seen more hockey than I ever will.
That said, in his last week in the office, he left us with one last doozy.
Remember when a Stanley Cup was the only thing keeping Alex Ovechkin from truly being one of the greats of all time? Seems like a lifetime ago. Well, Campbell decided in his last week that it was high time to say that Ovechkin’s Capitals only winning one Cup represents a disappointment as long as he’s focused on chasing Wayne Gretzky’s all time NHL goals record.
If Ovechkin does come back the way everyone expects he will, it has to stop being about goals. You know why? Because for all of his brilliance, for all of his otherworldly and unparalleled scoring ability, Alex Ovechkin has one Stanley Cup in 16 seasons. That’s why. In fact, when you look at his career in totality, the ledger of playoff flops and disappointments is far more populated than playoff triumphs.
Ol’ Ken wants Ovi to come into camp talking about nothing other than bringing another Cup to DC. Any goal record talk will just be a distraction that will only cause the Caps to flame out once again in the playoffs.
Campbell’s written some out there stuff over the years, and he was a regular visitor to the Tavares Free Agency Encyclopedia. He goes out on a high (or low) note with one of the most nitpicky, pedantic nothing concerns I’ve ever seen put into text. Ken, give yourself an extra slice of cake, my man.
Alternate Programming Options:
After watching a few tense TV shows in a row (even relatively silly ones from the Marvel Cinematic or Television universes), my wife and I wanted something a little lighter. So we started watching a show we’ve technically seen many times before, only now in sequence.
Psych was part of USA Network’s “Blue Sky Period” along with Monk, Burn Notice, White Collar and a few other shows. They were all mystery or adventure shows with tons of humor, attractive actors, picturesque locations and cases that get tied up neatly in 45 minutes or less. They’re the definition of “comfort viewing” and, all things considered, Psych might be the king of them all.
The secret is in the chemistry between the two leads. James Roday Rodriguez (who went by James Roday back then) and Dulé Hill come off as if they really have been friends since they were kids. Right from the beginning of the series, their timing is tight and effortless. They get even better as the show goes on and the rest of the cast comes into their own as well, particularly Timothy Omundson as the always wound up Det. Lassiter. The cases are often pretty slight and sometimes even nonsensical, but when you get to hang out with Shawn and Gus, you really don’t care.
Psych show wrapped in 2014 but the cast as reunited for two - soon to be three - movies that I haven’t seen. I need to get on those, maybe after we’ve finished the series.
I would assume at this point that most adults on this planet have seen at least a single episode, but if you want to watch the series, you can use Amazon Prime, Peacock or just scan around your cable dial. At some point, I can guarantee the Psych Detective Agency will roll up in Gus’s 2002 blue Ford Echo and start causing trouble.
Classic Islanders Clip Just For fun:
You know it. This was before my time as a fan but for old timers, this is a seminal, important moment in the history of the Islanders. The Bruins were still big and bad in 1980 and the Islanders needed to go through them if they wanted that elusive Stanley Cup. No surprise that Clark Gillies was the guy kicking the door down.