They did it.
They finally did it.
Twenty three years after their last playoff win, the New York Islanders finally reached the second round again.
Yes, those 23 long years of futility, the ones with Mike Milbury, Ted Sather, and Steve Stirling.
The botched trades, the payroll floor, and the all the incompetence the team went through.
Sunday night was worth it for all if Islanders Nation.
“Elation,” Kyle Okposo would describe it. “I felt like the longer that game went on, the worse it was going to be for us because I thought we were outplaying them. We were able to make three huge plays in this series in the overtimes. That’s the turning point of the series. To do it on home ice, in front of our fans, and play the way that we did, I am extremely proud of our group and what we accomplished.”
Three-overtime wins with two in double OT, the Islanders really came together during the past week and John Tavares willed his team to a win in game one and of course last night’s Full Monty.
“I used to pretend I would win the Stanley Cup when I was a kid… one step at a time obviously,” Tavares said. “But that’s the ultimate dream. Scoring a game-winning goal to clinch a series, especially on home ice it’s pretty special.”
Special indeed, but the Islanders need to understand that this series was just one leg in the journey. An important one, since they finally accomplished it, but still just one leg. Now, the hard part comes, winning a round against a team that just won a round. In this case, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the reigning Eastern Conference Champions are on the deck.
This is not an impossible task. We are not talking about the 1977 Canadiens, 1985 Oilers, or ever the 1981 Isles. Tampa is without Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan, both integral parts of last year’s squad and can be had by a confident team, led by their captain.
That said, the Isles can’t treat this coming series like gravy. Just because they won a round doesn’t mean they won the Stanley Cup. There’s another 45 days of hockey to play before the silver chalice is handed out.
So in essence the Isles only won the right to keep playing and when the next series starts, they will have to play with the same desperation they showed over six games against Florida.
This doesn’t mean all is lost. The Isles have a very good chance on moving on especially with the way Thomas Greiss is playing in goal and of course they are led by Mr. Clutch John Tavares.
It only means they have to keep their eye on the prize here. Sixteen wins are needed to take home the cup. They have four, as will the seven other teams that make the next round.
So now the fun begins with the Islanders being the only playoff game in town.
Let’s see if they can keep it going.