After winning four straight games to sweep the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Islanders find themselves in a situation they haven’t been in so far these playoffs. The Isles are in a 1-0 series deficit and are looking to tie it on home ice Sunday. Sure, the playoffs are young, and the Islanders have been through adversity in the regular season, but the playoffs, as we NHL fans have seen over the past two weeks, are a completely different animal. Today can be a defining moment for this team should they fail to overcome the challenge.
The Islanders pulled off the near impossible in the first round; they swept the high flying Pittsburgh Penguins. One can argue that the nervousness set in right after game 4. Coming off the four straight wins, the Islanders have a chance to rest up and recharge for their next opponent. The media extensively covered the Islanders rest period and constantly inquired about their readiness for the next round considering they will likely be rusty coming off an extended break. The players and coaches scoffed at these questions, insisting that they will practice hard and will be game ready whenever the second round began.
The Islanders played a strong game 1. It was a goalie duel, however, and Hurricanes netminder Petr Mrazek won. The offence couldn’t pull through, and the power play was silent. It again raised concern that the time off caught up to the players. Now with game 2 looming and the threat of going down 2-0, the Islanders need to respond.
The attitude in the locker room after game 1 and the subsequent practice was optimistic. “There were some good things we did last night and some things we can clean up obviously,” Mathew Barzal said. “We just have to get a win tomorrow and focus on the process. It’s a race to four. Lots of teams have lost their first game and gone on to win series. For us, it’s about getting back to basics and getting a win tomorrow.”
Barry Trotz echoed his star player’s words. “I do remember a team I was a part of last year (Washington Capitals) that didn’t win the first two games [to Columbus],” Trotz said. “And we are facing a team that didn’t win their first two games last series. If that were the case, it’d be a best of two, but that’s not the case. It’s a race to four.”
During the regular season, the Islanders never lost more than three in a row, and lost consecutive games five times. They are hoping the character that led them to that success in recent months can find a way to win game 2 and tie the series. “You’re not going to go 16-0 in the playoffs, I don’t think anyone expected that,” Jordan Eberle said. “This is our first little bump, but with the character of this group, we need to respond and I know we will. We know how we need to play to win and we have a lot of guys in here who have won before.”
quotes courtesy of NHL.com