The New York Islanders were eliminated from the first playoff appearance in quite some time over the weekend, falling in Game 6 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. While it’s a massive disappointment, especially since they were an overtime goal away from forcing a Game 7, there are plenty of positives to take away.
The Islanders proved that this is a franchise on the upswing. They’ve been something of a laughingstock around the league, but their young talent came through in a big way for them this season. It’s clear that this team has a core in place, and will be a major threat in the coming years.
John Tavares made his case as a superstar talent in this league. He finished the year as a Hart Trophy finalist, and should probably win the award over the likes of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Of course, name recognition means he won’t.
Around Tavares, you have the likes of Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo, the latter of which showcased his skill set and showed the type of player he can be during the postseason. Don’t forget about Michael Grabner, who’s as fast as anybody in the league.
Defensively, they are sound and have some serious talent coming up through the ranks. Mark Streit and Lubomir Visnovsky are still very solid blue liners. Ryan Strome will soon be making his debut on the blue line for New York, as will Griffin Reinhart.
If there’s a question for this team, it’s between the pipes. Evgeni Nabokov is not a goaltender you want starting during the playoffs. He’s never been good when it comes to the postseason. Perhaps the likes of Kevin Poulin or Anders Nilsson could supplant him next season.
While many thought the Islanders to be a fluke heading into the postseason, they proved to be anything but. They were eliminated in six games, yes, but they gave the Penguins everything they could handle. This is a team that is headed in the right direction, and will be a Stanley Cup threat within the next few seasons.