For a brief spot in time, the New York Islanders were the darlings of the NHL. The ne’er-do-well franchise of the past two decades had missed the playoffs in five consecutive postseasons, and failed to advance past the Eastern Conference quarterfinals since 1993.
Well, it didn’t happen this year either thanks to the buzz-saw that’s accumulated more points than any team in the league in the regular season, but the Isles did give us this wonderful brief contemplation: “Will we live in a world where the Islanders upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round?”
Close, but not quite, as an inspired performance to tie the series up at two apiece in New York merely led to a closeout by Pittsburgh over the following two games. Still, an impressive form by this spunky bunch deserves to be lauded. The Isles coach recognized this after Game 4 when this officially became a series–six-games series at the least–which was far more than anyone really expected.
“You can see our guys growing,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said, via NHL.com. “I think there’s 17 players with no playoff experience. But they’re in a series now. There’s a lot of belief in that room. If we continue to play within our framework and our structure, we can have success.”
The eighth seed and a 24-17-7 record are not too shabby for a young rebuilding team. And with the veteran leadership of 22-year-old John Tavares, these green players got a chance to taste playoff experience against one of the best squads in recent years.