On Sunday the New York Islanders took a commanding 3-0 series lead against the Penguins to put them one win away from advancing to the second round. Putting away the former two-time defending champs won’t be easy.
Through the first three games of the 2019 NHL postseason for the young New York Islanders, we have learned that they don’t bend under pressure (blew three leads in Game 1 but still won), can take away an opponents best player (Sidney Crosby has no points) and can continue to suffocate the opposition (held Penguins to 1 goal in last two games).
The next lesson these young Islanders need to learn as they continue their postseason ride is how to put a team away. While that might seem obvious, plenty of good teams have put themselves in position to win, but slamming the door shut is what separates the contenders from pretenders.
One does not have to look too far to find an example of failure to do so in this series. The Penguins took a 3-0 over the Islanders in the 1975 Stanley Cup Quarterfinals, only to have the Islanders become just the second team in NHL playoff history to rally and win the series in seven games.
The Penguins were 4-0 facing elimination when they won their back-to-back Stanley Cups in the 2016 and 2017 postseason. Only the Capitals have defeated them when they faced elimination in the last three postseasons, beating them in Game 6 of the 2018 Second Round.
NHL history is filled with former champions showing grit and refusing to go quietly. In the 2014 NHL postseason, the 2012 Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings fell behind the San Jose Sharks 3-0 in the First Round, getting outscored 17-8.
The former champions rallied to become just the fourth time in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 deficit, allowing just five goals in winning the next four games while scoring 18. The Kings used that series to catapult them to another Stanley Cup Championship.
In 2011, the defending Stanley Cup Champions Chicago Blackhawks fell behind the Vancouver Canucks 3-0 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Chicago refused to die, taking the next three games to tie the series.
Trailing 1-0 in Game 7 Jonathan Toews scored the tying goal shorthanded with 1:58 remaining in the game, shocking the fans in Vancouver who were ready to celebrate. However, the Canucks showed they finally learned how to win when Alexandre Burrows netted the game-winner 5:22 into overtime.
As Barry Trotz gets the Islanders ready for Game 4, there is no doubt that he will use his own history of failing to take advantage of putting a team away to help his young team. From 2015-17, the Capitals were just 2-6 in games they could eliminate their opponent.
In the 2018 postseason, the Capitals went 4-0 in such games. Can Trotz motivate his young troops the same way for Game 4?