It was quite the season for the Islanders. They were pegged to finish as one of the worst teams in the National Hockey League (NHL), and even when they made the playoffs, they were still doubted to get out of the first round. Nobody had any belief in the Islanders.
Except for the players themselves.
After finishing with a 48-27-7 record, which was good enough for second in the Metropolitan Division, fourth in the Eastern Conference and fifth in the NHL, the Islanders were matched up against the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first round of the playoffs.
With the first round being played at the Coliseum, everyone was hyped up for the series. On one hand, there is a team that is overachieving and looking to prove everyone wrong. They are playing a team that has won two Stanley Cups in the previous three seasons and has made the playoffs 13 years in a row. Can’t get any better than that.
The Islanders opened up the series with two wins at home, 4-3 in overtime and 3-1 respectively, taking a 2-0 series lead heading into Pittsburgh. It was going to be a challenge for the Islanders to continue their winning ways in a building where the Penguins don’t lose too often.
But, the Islanders pulled off the unthinkable.
They won the two games in Pittsburgh (even after allowing the first goal in both games), 4-1 and 3-1, and swept the Penguins away.
Now, you would think rest would come in handy especially during the playoffs. Well, the Isles got 10 days off in between rounds as they were waiting for the Hurricanes-Capitals series to wrap up. Everyone expected the Capitals to finish the Hurricanes off, but the Carolina were resilient and ended up defeating the Caps in seven games. Game 1 for the Hurricanes came at them quick as they only had one day to rest.
This was quite a weird series. Instead of the Islanders playing the role of the underdogs, they were playing against a team that were considered the underdogs in the series. Everything was opposite from the previous series, including the Islanders home arena. There was little doubt that the Isles would win this series.
Controversial calls in Games 1 and 2 contributed to two tough losses. The Isles had more goals called back than goals that counted. The Islanders had so many chances, but so few went their way. The Hurricanes took the first two games at Barclays Center, 1-0 in overtime and 2-1. But those games could have easily been the other way around.
Down 2-0 in the series heading back to Raleigh had Isles fans panicking. Even after a 5-2 loss in Game 3, fans were still believing in this team. But the Isles just could not buy a bounce. Nor were they any good in Game 4. The Isles, who just swept the Penguins, have been swept by the Hurricanes.
As much as this stings, look at the bright side. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Lou Lamoriello did not think this would happen. The Isles made it to the second round of the playoffs in the midst of a quick rebuild. That’s amazing. They are years ahead of schedule and if they have a big offseason, the sky’s the limit for this team in the next few years.