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.
There will be plenty of tough decisions to be made for New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano when training camp starts in September, especially when it comes to deciding which young forward will have a chance to be on the opening night roster.
Both Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson have earned the deserved opportunity to get a long look before being sent back down to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers; the only question is which one will stay.
The New York Islanders once again will be looking for a new winger on the top line to play with John Tavares and Matt Moulson. It has been a continuous up and down process that has seen several players come and go, and new faces will be looking to fill that void once again as the 2013-2014 season approaches (bridgetds/Flickr).
Moulson and Tavares found chemistry from the very beginning, as they were long-time friends prior to joining the Islanders line-up. But finding a third member to join their two-man wolf pack hasn't been an easy solution.
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.
After a scoreless first period, the Pittsburgh Penguins score three in the second period to blow the game wide open and cruise to a victory in today's game five of this best of seven first round series.
The Penguins got goals from four different players and ten different skaters had points in Pittsburgh's 4-0 shutout. For Tomas Vokoun, it was his second career shutout.
The Islanders would benefit greatly from forgetting Game 1 completely and starting fresh tonight. With the return of Sidney Crosby imminent, the Islanders have to attempt to steal a road win in Pittsburgh. The Isles’ have decided to shake up their line up with changes up and down. Their projected lines according to reading Twitter this morning look somewhat different than Game 1.
With the Islanders down a goal late in the 3rd at Carolina, it seemed like the clinching party would have to be put on hold. That all changed when John Tavares slid a puck to the front of the net that somehow wound up crossing the line. It would seem like some sort of supernatural force is driving them to be this lucky.
But what we are realizing collectively with each passing game is that for too long we have been mistaking lucky for good. This Islanders team is talented, driven and gritty. They are playing hockey the right way and making a starving fan base proud on a nightly basis.
With the Islanders losing in a shoot-out, they picked up a valuable point that made clinching possible. For all hockey fans with access to the out of market games, they all turned their attention to the action in the nation’s capital. The Capitals were clinging to a one goal lead when Winnipeg pulled Pavelec to bring on an extra man. As the seconds dripped off the clock for what seemed like hours, the Caps connected with an empty netter which sealed the Islanders’ fate.
They are playoff bound for the first time in 7 years.
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.
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...