There are a lot of questions surrounding the New York Islanders as they head into next season. The biggest one will be whether or not they are capable of making the playoffs for the second year in a row.
The NHL Facebook page recently asked this same question, and many fans were either skeptical, positive or found the idea downright absurd (and these weren't just Rangers fans).
Despite an intense, hard fought playoff series with a very inexperienced roster against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team that has been one of the most dominant forces of the league for the past few years, many critics are still not convinced that the New York Islanders are a guaranteed playoff team.
The Islanders were very busy at the start of an off-season that forecasted a flurry of movement from GM Garth Snow. On the agenda was signing a number-one goaltender and top-six forward, both of which took place on July 5th. A few other moves were made to help keep the core intact for many years to come, as well as removing another bad apple from the organization (Photo Credit: Official New York Islanders/Flickr).
After signing forward Peter Regin to what is seemingly a depth signing, the Isles quickly looked to fill the void left in the crease.
The Isles were reportedly interested in goaltender Ray Emery, who ended up signing a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. This forced Snow to return to his original choice for the crease and sign Evgeni Nabokov to another one-year deal at $3.25 million.
The New York Islanders are currently on the outside looking in on the final match-ups of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Pittsburgh Penguins, who elimated the Isles in six games, are currently set to battle the Boston Bruins to see who will fight for the Cup from the Eastern Conference (Photo credit: douglasgallery30/Flickr).
One Islanders skater, Travis Hamonic, has been spending time in his cottage up north in Canada, enjoying some personal time away from the game.
The 22-year old defenseman is someone I have followed since his days in the WHL after being drafted by the Islanders with the 53rd overall pick of the 2008 Entry Draft. Since then, he has emerged from an inexperienced rookie into a reliable top-four defender, responsible for shutting down an opponent's top scorers.
Hamonic called me this afternoon (once he found a spot with good cell service) to discuss his game, the first round match-up against the Pens and the culture that has overtaken the Islanders locker room.
The New York Islanders lost 4-3 in overtime last night to the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins, thus ending their run in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Penguins took the series in six games, winning the last battle on Coliseum ice in front of a sold out crowd of Islanders fans that continued to give their home team a standing ovation despite being eliminated.
"It's exciting to play in a building like this. It's a lot of fun. In my opinion, we're probably the loudest arena in the league now," said Matt Martin after the game.
"The fans were unbelievable through the end of the season there in the last five home games and all through the playoffs. They were a big factor in the way we played at home down the stretch. It makes a huge difference for us. People don't realize it but it gives you a little extra boost, a little extra energy when the crowd goes nuts like that. You definitely want to do something exciting."
Fighting has been, and will continue to be a controversial topic of discussion for as long as it is in the game of hockey. There are those who are against it, and those who are in support of it (Photo Credit: bridgetds/Flickr).
There are those who enjoy seeing a good'ol scrap just for the fun. You know, the ones who say they went to a fight and suddenly a hockey game broke out.
But there are others who understand the role a fight can play in waking up a team; it's ability to provide a spark on the bench that can contribute to better defense, stronger goaltending and ultimately goals that can win hockey games.
That's exactly what Kyle Okposo provided last night.
After being dismally shutout 5-0 in Pittsburgh for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals, the Islanders were headed in the same frightening direction last night during the first period of Game 2. The return of Sidney Crosby once again beset the Islanders after he scored his second goal of game to give the Pens a 3-1 lead after a period.
But a rejuvenated Isles team would show up the in the next frame and eventually shock the Penguins, in addition to just about everybody watching. The Islanders outplayed Pittsburgh for the rest of the game and scored three unanswered goals to even the series at 1-1. (Photo Credit: T.J. Corona/Flickr)
Many teams that make the post-season have a player on their roster that elevates his style of play in order to reach a new level of performance during the most meaningful games of the year in the playoffs. These players are instrumental to each team's success in the playoffs and help carry their teams to several victories in their run for the Cup.
Looking back to the recent past, players such as Fernando Pisani and Sean Bergenheim come to mind. Pisani, who was playing for the Edmonton Oilers during their Cup run in 2006, only had 37 points in 80 regular season games but burst onto the playoff scene with 14 goals and 18 points in 24 playoff games.
The Isles took a big step towards the playoffs yesterday afternoon with another road victory in Winnipeg. Brian Strait was back in the line up, so Matt Carkner sat yesterday.
This was one of the most exciting games this season, with so much on the line for both teams. In the beginning of the first, the Isles looked a little tired. That would not last long though, as Frans Nielsen scored his 6th of the season just 4:21 into the game on a nice play from Okposo and Bailey. (Photo: MVerminski/flickr)
When the horn sounded at the end of the third period at the Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday night, Islanders fans rejoiced as their home squad defeated the visiting Florida Panthers 5-2. The Isles skaters removed their jerseys and signed them for the lucky fans who won them as a prize at the end of the game.
Typically, this is a moment at the end of the Islanders season filled with "better luck next year's" and "thanks for supporting us as we rebuild our team." But instead, this time, fans were salivating for more as the Islanders continued to tighten their grasp on their first playoff berth in six years.
"Everyone's been telling me how loud this arena can be," said Matt Martin...