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Islanders Back & Forth: On Surviving Living Nightmares and Dance Recitals

Our final weekly look at the Islanders’ most recent games. Mostly.

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New York Islanders v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Seven
One bounce away.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

That’s all, folks. With their run for the Stanley Cup over, the Islanders will turn their attention to what will surely be an eventful, perhaps painful, offseason.

First, let’s look back at the (final) week that was.

Last week for the New York Islanders:

Playoff Game 17: 8-0 loss to the Lightning

Yeah, I’m not in the mood to revisit this dumpster fire. I will say, it’s definitely something to experience the exact worst nightmare scenario that you can envision in a playoff game and still come out the other side. The chance of something like this happening in a pivotal, post-season, spotlight scenario is always out there and, when all the stars aligned, it actually happened. Unfortunately, it happened to our team.

But we survived and so did the Islanders. Once again. After a very dark episode, there is at least a little light to take away.

Playoff Game 18: 3-2 OT win over the Lightning

Last Wednesday was my daughter’s annual dance recital. The first seven of them were on a weekend, but this year’s was in the middle of the week and done in shifts, so to speak. Instead of one big show with 50 or so acts, there were five shows with nine-to-ten acts each. While it made the whole thing much easier to sit through (especially when your kid is in five of the nine acts...) the timing wasn’t great for me, obviously. Shocking that the dance studio wouldn’t take the NHL semifinals schedule into consideration several months before they happen...

The show itself was done way before Game 6 started, but I missed the first half of the game while we went out to dinner afterwards. I didn’t want to be anti-social, so I resolved only check for the score around 8:45, when I figured the first period would be at or near its end. When the clock hit quarter to nine and I checked my Twitter... just after Brayden Point made it 1-0 Lightning. Great.

We eat, we pay, we drive the five minutes home and I can finally turn the game on. Hey, the Islanders are on a 5-on-3 powerplay! Hey, it’s over...already? Hey, Anthony Cirelli just made it 2-0 Lightning. All within a span of about two-and-a-half minutes. Great.

From that point on, I was able to watch as normal and, of course, enjoyed the Islanders’ come-from-behind OT win, which left me very relieved. Barry Trotz’s team and words have disabused and dissuaded me from a lot of my superstitions about watching these games (Some. Not all. It’s a work in progress...). But for a while, I was convinced that I - me, personally - had somehow caused the Islanders to go down early to the champs in a must-win game.

If that had happened, we never would have eaten at that restaurant ever again.

Playoff Game 19: 1-0 loss to the Lightning

I mentioned this on this week’s podcast but when the Islanders pulled Semyon Varlamov with about three minutes to go, I was not only hoping they would score. I was also hoping the Lightning wouldn’t hit the empty net. It’s perverse in a way, but I felt a 1-0 loss would be a more poetic and appropriate final game score for this series and for the Islanders’ season.

A 2-0 loss would have felt more distant than things had really been. At least, in my mind. After two ineffective periods, the Islanders entered the third only down a goal. A single bounce in their direction would have meant at least overtime. Then who knows? You wouldn’t get that same story from a 2-0 score.

The real final score is brutal and painful, even days after it occurred. But it feels like an ending that fits, however disappointing that may be. It’ll be a story we’ll tell the generations that follow for years. It’ll be even better if there’s ultimately an Islanders Stanley Cup at the end of it.

Record for the week: 1-2

Playoff Record: 12-8

Next week for the New York Islanders:

For players and coaches, lots of soul searching, sighing and recovery. For Lou Lamoriello, draft prep and expansion considerations. For us, lots of waiting and worrying.

Canadian Sportswriters Say The Darnedest Things:

A small side story that happens every year in the NHL playoffs is the push-and-pull of “Canada’s Team,” the concept that the country that invented hockey will put all of its hopes into a single team, usually the one that advances until it’s the only Canadian team left.

The whole stupid idea is the product of a hockey mad country having way too many hockey writers trying to justify their own existence by creating something that wouldn’t make a lick of sense to anyone who is a real fan of one of the other teams. With the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup final, you’d have to be either a very sheltered casual observer or a huge frothing dumbass to think that people who normally root for the Canucks, Oilers, Flames, Jets, Leafs and Senators to want to throw their support behind one of their traditional, temporary or just anecdotal rivals.

Oh look. It’s huge frothing dumbass Damien Cox, to do just that.

It’s been a decade since Canada had a team in the Stanley Cup final.

That’s a long wait for the birthplace of the game. Watching all-American matchups in the Cup final year after year has been a bit depressing. Seeing Vegas get to the final in that team’s very first year of existence felt like another slap in the face.

Well, the long wait is over. Even better, this time the representative from the Great White North, the surprising Montreal Canadiens, is a team the nation should be able to get behind.

Cox says that Canadians should embrace the Habs in a way they never embraced Canada’s last Cup final team. The 2011 Vancouver Canucks were a team so unlikable, they actually made Canadians root for the Big, Bad Bruins. The horror!

Does anyone really think Leafs and Jets fans, whose teams had their seasons end at the Habs’ hands, are going to get behind Montreal in this final? Why would they? Does that make those series loses any easier to stomach?

What about fans of the Oilers, who were swept by the goddamn Winnipeg Jets, who then got swept by the Habs? Seeing the Hurricanes get swept by Boston in 2019 after they swept the Islanders in the second round was small consolation at the time and has more or less be forgotten by now. I can’t imagine how hearing non-stop about how great the team that swept the team that swept you is would make Edmonton fans feel all that much better.

Maybe fans of a non-playoff team could get behind that Habs. But that probably has less to do with the national pride of “Canada’s Team” and more to do with, “Why does my team suck and how can they find this kind of success?”

Cox does have some historical precedent for this nonsensical behavior. He compares spritely Habs winger Cole Caufield to previous NCAA rookie sensation Ken Dryden and says the situation is just like... wait, what the hell?

The team emerged from the hastily assembled, all-Canadian North Division as the champions of Canada, a singular achievement we will not likely see again. They are a 21st-century version of the legendary Dawson City Nuggets, who journeyed more than 6,000 kilometres by bicycle, foot, train, ship and, yes, dogsled to challenge the Ottawa Silver Seven for the Cup in 1904.

Congrats to all of the 125-year-old Canadians for whom this unbelievably tortured metaphor actually applies.

Here in 2021, no one should expect fans of another team to root for their rival in a final. Take it from these guys (Sens fans, as expected, are much more accepting than bitter Leafs fans are).

Or you can take it from me. When the Rangers went to the Cup final in 2014, I was asked repeatedly if I was hoping they’d win and if I was was “rooting for New York.” I did not take it well.

Fortunately, there are people up north that totally get it. Unfortunately, lots of people everywhere still don’t.

I highly doubt Damien Cox has spent enough time amongst actual hockey fans to know that what he’s asking for is a tall order, no matter how many stories about the 1904 Ottawa Silver Seven he wants to spin.

Alternate Programming Options:

I’ll keep this part short and say that if you haven’t yet watched Season One of Ted Lasso (Apple TV+), you need to correct that ASAP because Season Two premieres on July 23rd.

The show is funny, uplifting, affecting, heartfelt and especially relevant to sports fans, although you don’t have to know sports or soccer to understand what’s at stake in every episode. So if you have a significant other that’s not a big sports fan, you can tell them it doesn’t matter (might want to keep the little kids away, though). You’ll see so many parallels in sports and life that every hilarious character and silly or serious scenario will ring 100 percent true.

They hype is real and Ted Lasso is worth a subscription to Apple’s TV service on its own. Don’t wait. Believe.

Also, Barry Trotz loves it. So what else do you need to know?

Classic Islanders Clip Just For fun:

I’m undecided if I want to do this column next season. Like everything else over the last year and change, it’s a bit of a grind, even if it was, ostensibly, for fun. Thanks to everyone for reading. I don’t think my “analysis” was all that enlightening, but hope at least some of the alternate options will give you some enjoyment over the summer.

Right now, you can’t get more classic than this: