If you’re a sucker for surprise underdogs, then this might be the last bandwagon outreach article you read.
Well, I suppose there’s those pesky BJ’s as well...
That was until the regular season started and the Islanders kept winning. Head coach Barry Trotz took the league’s worst defensive team and turned them into a juggernaut in their own end. That, along with goaltenders Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss playing out of their minds has turned this middling Islanders team into a Stanley Cup contender.
Their lofty status has shocked the bejeezus out of everyone, especially after they swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round One. Just in case that result isn’t enough to get you onto the Islanders bandwagon, I’ve recruited Dan Saraceni from Lighthouse Hockey & The Islanders Anxiety Podcast to convince you to join this bandwagon once and for all.
1) The Canucks playoff history with the Islanders dates back to 1982, where the powerhouse Isles smoked the Canucks in four games. Is there any reason for Canucks fans to feel jealousy towards the Islanders over this, or should Canucks fans get over it and get behind the league’s most surprising team?
I’m assuming there are some OG Canucks fans that are still mad about this (if they’re anything like Islanders fans, they forget nothing and forgive even less), but I think for most modern fans, it’s probably water long under a bridge by this point. For us, that series is always shown as the time Mike Bossy literally became Superman and scored goals without having to even have his feet on the ice. Besides, without the Islanders, the Canucks never would have had Todd Bertuzzi. So consider everything even.
2) The Isles regular season is surprising, but their series win against Pittsburgh is even more remarkable. I guess my question is, how the hell are they doing this?
My friend Dom wrote all about that here. But it basically boils down to the top six, particularly Oilers cast off Jordan Eberle, punching in goals as they should, Robin Lehner being outstanding and the entire roster playing to Barry Trotz’s exact defensive structure. Trotz has gotten them all to buy in to a degree few (especially Islanders fans) have ever seen. They come in waves and pounce on any mistake and before you know it, the puck is in your net. They’re not perfect by any stretch, but the robotic cohesion is really something to see. From Day 1, they were ready to give over to Trotz’s process and they’ve been rewarded.
3) One of the Isles most intriguing players is Jordan Eberle. Do you see him re-signing? If so, what’s his price tag?
The Islanders have four really key UFAs this summer: captain Anders Lee, second line center Brock Nelson, Lehner and Eberle. The first three seem to be the higher priorities only because they’re the least replaceable. Eberle and Mat Barzal have found chemistry together, so we all hope he’d like to stay. But Barzal and half of their defense will need new contracts next year, so there’s only so much money GM Lou Lamoriello can spend. As for his price tag, it goes up with every goal he scores in the playoffs. Anything less than $6 million per is a discount.
4) Gushing time. Tell me how you feel while watching B.C. boy Mat Barzal play hockey.
When Garth Snow traded Griffin Reinhart to the Oilers for draft picks used to take Barzal, we were already excited. Last year, we fell in love with his electric style. This year, his point totals decreased but his defensive game and adherence to the Trotz style have grown, which makes him even more amazing. We love his skating, his passing, his celebrations, his cockiness, his hair, you name it. And when he basically ignored John Tavares and the thank you video the Islanders gave him at Nassau Coliseum (conspicuously being the only Islander not to tap his stick in tribute), he basically became an Islanders legend. All at 21 years old.
The Islanders put on a hell of a performance in Round One. Now, if the Washington Capitals can beat the Carolina Hurricanes, Barry Trotz would get a chance to defeat the team he took to the Stanley Cup Finals last season.
Hook up the popcorn.