A motto that Islanders fans have followed all season is slowly disappearing in exchange for the panic button.
Down 3-0 in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Islanders are not in a position to celebrate. Bad calls, unlucky bounces and Barclays Center have plagued the team, but at the end of the day, they are in this situation for a reason.
The Hurricanes have played better.
But here is where that theory gets complicated.
Sure, the Hurricanes have brought more to the table than the Islanders and are leading the series.
However, in three games, the Islanders have kept up with the Hurricanes, even dominating play at times. This is not your traditional 3-o series deficit.
Game 1 could have gone either way. Petr Mrazek and Robin Lehner traded huge save for huge save, and it took a Cal Clutterbuck mistake in overtime to send 15,000 Islanders fans on a sad Long Island railroad ride back home.
Two days later, the storyline remained the same. It was a close game throughout the afternoon, one in which the Islanders outplayed their opponent nearly the entire game, but it all it took were two goals in 48 seconds for the Hurricanes to return to Raleigh with a 2-0 series lead.
Play those two games 100 times through, the Islanders win both 5o% of the time. At the very least, the series should have been tied. But it wasn’t.
This is where things went from neck-and-neck to the Islanders having their necks against the wall. In Game 3, Carolina came out firing, having the upper hand all night long. Tied at two goals apiece in the third period, it seemed like both teams were waiting for the other to make a mistake.
The Islanders cracked first, and when Robin Lehner made a mistake playing the puck, the Hurricanes took advantage. For the rest of the way, the Islanders looked like the Doug Weight-coached atrocity that unfolded last season. The offense was nonexistent, the defense was not structured and they were unable to garner a legitimate scoring a chance to tie the game.
Things are not looking good for a team that seemed destined for Stanley Cup glory just a few months ago.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane. The date is Feb. 16, 2019. The Islanders have just beaten the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 in their final regular season game at Barclays Center. The blue and orange improved to 11-2-2 in their last 15 games and 21-5-2 in their last 28 games, good for the best record in the NHL since Dec. 15.
Life was good. Don’t deny it: you had legitimate dreams of a Stanley Cup parade down Hempstead Turnpike.
But after two games back at Barclays Center and one in North Carolina, it does not look like that will happen.
Want to know what else shouldn’t have happened? The 2018-2019 New York Islanders.
A team destined for failure after losing their captain has proved the entire NHL wrong time after time. After signing dusters to replace top players, the Islanders emerged as the storyline of the year.
This team has done things nobody thought were possible. Did you think they would make it this far? No, so now that the Islanders are facing adversity for the first time this postseason, do not give up.
The Islanders have not allowed a power-play goal since Game 1 against the Penguins, establishing a new team record. The Islanders are 26-20 all-time when facing elimination, including a 16-5 record at home. Most importantly, the Islanders have only trailed for 32:34 in this series. They have been leading or tied for 151:30.
But this battle, this fight, this war is more about numbers. If the Islanders want to come back from a 3-0 deficit, they will need to prepare to do the impossible.
They will have to buckle up and get ready for the most difficult stretch of hockey they have ever played. Fans will have to support their team through the thick and thin, never giving up no matter what happens. Barry Trotz and company will need to make adjustments, tricking a Carolina team that appears destined for the Eastern Conference Finals.
If the Islanders want this, they can achieve it. There is no group of players I would rather have attempting to rewrite this narrative.
All it takes is one win. Game 4 will show what this team is made of. Just one victory can quickly become two, then three, then hopefully four, but it all starts tonight.
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