Boy, what a ride this week has been. And it’s only going to get crazier.
First, let’s look back at the (even better than expectations) week that was.
Last week for the New York Islanders:
Playoff Game 11: 5-4 win over the Bruins
You can admit it. You thought the Bruins would tie this game after David Krecji made it 5-4 late in the third period. I did, too. All of Boston probably did.
Barry Trotz knew what to do, though. He called a timeout and reminded his players to play their game and do what they know they needed to do. They needed to stop backing up and push the pace more. The Bruins had just three shots on goal from that point on.
We’ve all seen the Islanders blow multi-goal leads before, including earlier in this series, but this was different. The stakes were higher and the opponent tougher. Most importantly, they stopped the slide in its tracks by getting back to their identity and ingrained gameplan.
How great is it to have an identity and an ingrained gameplan? And one that works, too? In the playoffs? Against stiff competition?
It’s almost as great as walking into TD Garden in a tie series and coming out with a lead.
Playoff Game 12: 6-2 win over the Bruins
This is my favorite Islanders game ever. There is no question. My previous favorite was Game 3 against the Maple Leafs in the 2002 playoffs. That was the Islanders’ first home playoff game in seven seasons. They came in trailing the Leafs 2-0 in the series and romped to a 6-1 win, with two goals from Mark Parrish and chaos erupting all throughout the third period. Of course, they would tie the series in the next game thanks in large part to Shawn Bates’ penalty shot.
I was at that 2002 game and while some of the details are hazy after 20 years, there was a feeling I could never forget; pure, unchecked human-powered electricity.
I had been to the Coliseum a hundred or more times during the 90’s drought, when crowds were sparse and energy was low. The loudest chants you’d hear during games were “Mike Must Go!”
That game was something different, though. It was loud - almost painfully loud - and the noise never stopped. It was hard to hear the PA announcements of the goal scorers. Just three full hours of indoor mayhem. After it was over, we naturally razzed some Leafs fans, who no doubt had no idea what they were in for, on their way out
I wasn’t at Game 6 against the Bruins, but I could feel that same energy at the Coliseum coming through my (computer) screen. As I said on last week’s post-series podcast, I was a nervous wreck between Games 5 and 6, thinking about all of the possible ways this potential close-out game could go. The Islanders put me at ease pretty quickly. They came ready to play and, most importantly. wanted to crush the Bruins like a can of beer against an offensive lineman’s head.
This was a truly impressive performance, maybe even more than their similar Game 6 win over the Penguins in the previous series. It was a reminder of how they played in the bubble last year, buzz-sawing through Florida, Washington and (the non-overtime periods against) Philadelphia.
To do that against a Boston team heavily favorited to win not only the series but, not long ago, the Stanley Cup, is remarkable. And it will never be forgotten.
Playoff Game 13: 2-1 win over the Lightning
Well now. Not sure how many saw that coming, but after the game right before this one, maybe we should have. The Islanders gave the Lightning absolutely nothing until a late powerplay goal. I know Brock Nelson felt Nikita Kucherov sold that cross-check, but dude, don’t cross-check anyone on this team in the neck. Even a little.
That was the one blemish on an otherwise spectacular game for the visiting crew. I don’t give a shit how many people are complaining about their afternoons being ruined by another “boring” Islanders game. Getting that first win is huge in any playoff series.
But it’s just one. The Islanders know it. The Lightning know it. Game 2 will be a different animal on Tuesday.
Also a different animal: Tampa Bay beat writers, who didn’t get the same memo that Pittsburgh and Boston ones did.
Record for the week: 3-0
Playoff Record: 9-4
Next week for the New York Islanders:
Tuesday, June 15 at the Lightning, Thursday, June 17 and Saturday, June 19 vs the Lightning
A lot was made during and after Game 1 of the rather subdued crowd at Amalie Arena on Sunday. I gotta be honest, if I was a Floridian hockey fan at an afternoon game on Sunday, seeing my team getting worked over for 60 minutes and knowing that I could hit the beach or maybe a nice seafood restaurant right after, I would have been pretty quiet, too.
No place is like Nassau Coliseum in the throes of an NHL playoff game and that’s fine. That’s what makes that experience so special. I don’t expect the Lightning to be too intimidated by the insanity when the series shifts to Long Island (they certainly weren’t in their games in Raleigh, another pretty raucous arena) but the difference is really stark. So much so that it even comes through the television.
I don’t know if Jon Cooper will do what Trotz does and implore the home fans to “bring the noise” or whatever but it wouldn’t surprise me if the answer was a collective, “Yeah, sure, dude. Right after we get back from
windsurfing in the Keys. Or maybe an airboat ride through the Everglades...Dinosaur World.”
Predicted record for the week: 2-1.
Canadian Boston Sportswriters Say The Darnedest Things:
A lot of shit spewed forth from New England during the Islanders-Bruins series, both before and after Boston was eliminated. The Bruins, their media contingent and their fans, deserved to feel like the favorite in the series, but some articles crossed the line from confidence and questioning to delusion and irrational arrogance.
Coach Bruce Cassidy’s (expensive) mental unraveling has already been covered, and if you want to see a nonstop stream of foaming fanboyism, Joe Haggerty is now and forever your man. Of course, sports radio stations are all about hot takes and hyperbole, and Boston’s WEEI went appropriately off the deep end in a big way by asserting that NBCSN had a bias towards a team they’ve spent the better part of the last 20 years straight up ignoring.
Writer Alex Reimer’s big complaints are that the NBCSN crew of John Forslund, Joe Micheletti and Pierre McGuire, and even its studio talent were quick to assume David Krecji’s Game 5 goal would be waved off (when it wasn’t) and praised the Islanders for their dirty cheap shots and obvious desire to physically murder any Bruins within arm’s reach.
The Bruins’ uninspiring play against the Islanders has been tough enough to watch, but NBC’s apparent efforts to paint them as the heel are only making it worse. During Game 5, the Islanders got away with numerous cheap shots, while the Bruins were called for four penalties. Most egregiously, Sean Kuraly was whistled for a slash in the second period, despite never appearing to touch the Islander he was defending.
And yet, how did Kathryn Tappen and Anson Carter describe the Bruins’ play during intermission? “Undisciplined.”
That’s certainly... a take. Mine is that Forslund calls every national game using the same six catchphrases over and over for two and a half hours, Micheletti is employed by the Islanders’ biggest rival and is known as one of the most shameless homers in hockey and McGuire literally worked for the Pittsburgh Penguins and treats each member of that team as if he is a blood relative. The network Reimer is so angry with also featured his hometown team 12 times this regular season, while the Islanders only had seven appearances. That’s about six more than they’ve had in the last two seasons combined. The Bruins are also a favored East Coast representative for every NHL outdoor game, a staple of NBC broadcasts for the last decade.
Who would Reimer prefer call the game? Glad you asked.
But man, it would’ve been validating to hear Jack Edwards also have a conniption while Travis Zajac got away with a hook on Krejci, or Kyle Palmieri escaped punishment for a high-stick on Craig Smith.
Yeah, okay. No homerism there.
Reimer is also afraid that this crew could end up working for ESPN or TNT next season, and closes with a real zinger that must have taken him all of 10 seconds of concentration to come up with.
But if that doesn’t work out, they could always join the local Islanders crew. Their work this series would serve as the perfect demo reel.
wow. good one.
Alternate Programming Options:
There’s a quality argument to made that Dark Side of the Ring, airing on Vice on Thursday nights, is the best non-fiction show on TV. Maybe the best, period. I’m consistently blown away by the production, the pacing, the storytelling and the empathy shown in every story, not to mention the usual dark humor that comes up whenever professional wrestling people recount the insane tales of that bizarre world.
The show’s third season is half over right now, but you can watch the first and second seasons on Hulu and I can’t recommend them enough. Even if you’re not a wrestling fan (after growing up with it, I’m personally more into the history and backstage stuff these days than the actual wrestling), it’s compelling true crime storytelling with a unique subject matter.
As a true crime show, Dark Side deals with a large amount of pain and grief, both in the moment and today. Episodes about the too-short lives of Dino Bravo, Owen Hart and Bruiser Brody are among the series’ best. But not every episode is about a mysterious or tragic death. Some are just about insane happenings that, as Stan Fischler would say, strain credulity. Like the one about the 1998 WWF Brawl For All, a boxing tournament within a wrestling promotion that left a long line of careers and broken bodies in its wake and is still known as the “the worst idea WWF ever had.”
(You can watch this entire episode and a few more for free on YouTube right now)
In addition to archival footage, Dark Side of the Ring gets a lot of the principal players and other wrestling folks to do talking head interviews that always make you wish you were in the room. I realize that wrestling lifer Jim Cornette isn’t everyone’s favorite, but man, I could listen to that guy talk about this business for days. He’s a regular guest because he knows everything, as seen everything and knows everyone (whether he has an axe to grind against them or not).
Definitely check out an episode of Dark Side of the Ring if you haven’t already and I guarantee you’ll want to watch more. Then, before you know it, you’ll have seen all of them and will be ranting to your friends about the tragedy that followed the First Family of Texas’s World Class Championship Wrestling, and the still unsolved deaths of wrestlers from Montreal to Puerto Rico.
Classic Islanders Clip Just For fun:
I don’t know how much this helps. I’m getting nervous already just watching it, despite what the Islanders did in Game 1. Sadly, Kevin Shattenkirk doesn’t play for the Lightning anymore, so we can’t hope for him to cough up the puck like this in double OT. But’s a reminder that you never know what will happen.