— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 5, 2016
Captain John Tavares and the New York Islanders have had a baffling run that will continue through the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
By Justin Weiss
The New York Islanders are an enigma.
One day they’re Jekyll, and the next day they’re Hyde. It’s been a wacky season, to say the least. The Isles have found a way to play with your emotions, and they petrified fans up until the very last day.
This starts with captain John Tavares, the seventh-year player who has struggled at times, but has looked utterly brilliant at others. This has had a domino effect on the rest of the team; specifically with Anders Lee, Ryan Strome and Nikolai Kulemin.
It would obviously be remiss of me to fail to indulge on the sudden transformation of Thomas Hickey and Calvin de Haan, especially after the later began the 2015-16 season so crudely. And, of course, it would be a travesty if I didn’t address how peculiar Jack Capuano’s decision-making has been.
Despite all the up-and-downs of the regular season, the Isles qualifying for the playoffs provides me with the opportunity to see my team potentially advance to the second round for the first time in my entire life, and hopefully to the Stanley Cup.
If the Isles are going to hoist Lord Stanley, they’re going to have to ride guys like Thomas Hickey, the undersized defenseman who has had a tremendous bounce-back season (and scored the playoff clinching goal on Tuesday night).
But take last night’s win at face value: the Isles utilized a fourth-string netminder (Christopher Gibson), two rookie defensemen in place of two top four defensemen (Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield), and a tandem of seldom-used athletes (Eric Boulton and Steve Bernier) to punch a ticket to the postseason against the best team in the league, with a goalie eying the single-season wins record.
That’s saying something.
“Our guys just battled, and I think that the guys that were in there tonight were resilient,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “Even when we were down 3-1, we just had the confidence and we felt it coming.”
Resiliency will be another key in the postseason, especially if New York faces either the ? Penguins or upstart Panthers. Speaking of which, this is how the Isles match up against the two teams:
|0.21||Goal Differential Per Game||0.52|
|-0.67||Shot Differential Per Game||3.80|
|28.5||Hits Per Game||23.9|
|8.8||PIM Per Game||8.3|
|9.3||Opponent PIM Per Game||9.0|
The Pens are not the team the Isles want to face at this point, for two reasons: one, Pittsburgh is the hottest squad in the league, and two, they’ve had New York’s number this season. On a positive note, Marc Andre Fleury might not be as effective in the playoffs. On the other hand, the Pens have shockingly enjoyed the most success with a depleted lineup — which is what they have now.
|0.21||Goal Differential Per Game||0.35|
|-0.67||Shot Differential Per Game||-0.65|
|28.5||Hits Per Game||23.6|
|8.8||PIM Per Game||10.4|
|9.3||Opponent PIM Per Game||10.5|
The Panthers boast one of the league’s more inexperienced squads, but do have veteran leadership, a solid netminder and a guy named Jaromir Jagr. While they would be an ideal matchup for New York, keep in mind that they did fair well against them in the regular season.