— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 8, 2016
The New York Islanders’ brilliant 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night should be perceived as nothing short of spectacular.
Perched directly behind me on a brilliant vermilion pew was a man with a J.T. Miller jersey on who claimed he was a diehard Blueshirt fan.
By the time the Isles netted their third goal of the game, he could be audibly heard whispering to one of his Rangers buddies how a loss was better than a victory, for the notion of facing the Panthers in the first round sounded much more compelling than playing the Penguins.
These same sentiments were echoed by Isles fans, who wanted nothing to do with the upstart Penguins at the start of the night.
This perception gradually changed, as the New York Islanders dumped the Rangers 4-1 on Thursday night, bringing their winning streak against playoff teams to three, and sweeping the season series against their crosstown rivals for the first time in franchise history.
“Beating the Rangers is always great,” John Tavares said. “There was a lot of significance with positioning today. But I think we know we didn’t play our best, our goaltender really won us that game today. We capitalized on some chances and [Thomas Greiss] made some huge saves to keep us in the game. We did some good things, but we I think we know we can be a lot better than we were today.”
The scary thing is that the Isles’ captain is correct. While the team has been great over the past two weeks, it can be even better, especially considering how much talent they have on their roster.
— NHL (@NHL) April 8, 2016
With the Pens defeating the Caps in overtime, the Isles now cannot have home-ice in the first round. However, they clinched at least the seventh seed in the East with their win Thursday, and own the tiebreaker over the Rangers.
While the blazing hot Pens are not the most enviable opponent, there are a couple of reasons why the Isles setting themselves up for a first-round matchup with them isn’t a bad thing.
For starters, the Penguins are missing both Evgeni Malkin and Marc Andre Fleury. While they have flourished during their absence, the playoffs are a much different beast. The Isles have both a special teams and size advantage.
It’s also worth noting that the Panthers wouldn’t go down without a fight. The Aleksander Barkov line is phenomenal, and Florida’s goaltending is stronger than Pittsburgh’s.
While the Rink Rats may be the more enviable playoff opponent, just remember this: the Isles will be entering the postseason on fire, fresh off their first sweep of the Blueshirts in franchise history and riding the momentum of a succesful last couple of weeks.
It’s a good time to be a New York Islanders fan.