The islanders stare again at the playoff mountain.
Sixteen wins bring them to the Stanley Cup summit, which they haven’t reached since 1983, but the islanders can’t look that far into the distance. For the moment, they can’t look past Game 1 of their first round against the Penguins on Sunday afternoon at the PPG Paints Arena.
“Many teams that end up winning a Stanley Cup have experiences that will benefit them in the future,” said Cal Clutterbuck. “You don’t always climb the mountain the first time. You have to learn your lessons. And we have learned our lessons and hopefully this year the experience comes and we can use these experiences in situations during this time and hopefully they benefit us.”
Last season, the islanders reached the final of the Eastern Conference for the first time since 1993, before bowing to eventual cup winner Lightning in six games. They swept the Penguins in the first round in 2019 – Barry Wahr’s first season as coach of the Islanders – before being swept away by the Hurricanes.
The penguins still have what remains of the core that led them to the trophies in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, defenders Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin, and coach Mike Sullivan in 2016 and 2017. They defeated the Islanders in six of their eight games in the shortened regular season.
That helped the Penguins finish first in the East Division while the Islanders finished fourth.
Subscribe to Newsday’s sports newsletter
Get stories, photos, and videos about your favorite New York teams, as well as national sports news and events.
“We’ve seen them a lot over the past few years,” said defender Ryan Pulock. “We had the playoffs against them a few years ago. We are going to prepare our game. We are preparing to go to war and I’m sure they will do the same. I think it will be.” A fun series. We have to do a good job against their top end skills. We like being a physical team and we’ll have to try to use that to our advantage. “
The first two rounds of these playoffs – redesigned to reduce travel during the COVID-19 pandemic – will be played within the division before reseeding the four survivors for the NHL semifinals and cup finals, which will end in July.
But even here the islanders don’t stare too far up the mountain.
Island Ice Ep. 85: Preview of the Isles Penguins playoffs
Andrew Gross, Neil Best and Colin Stephenson discuss the upcoming playoff series Islanders-Penguins.
Despite has made it clear to his players that he wants them to enjoy this playoff journey. Last season was certainly unforgettable given the unique playoff bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton with no fans in the arenas.
Pittsburgh will be at 50% capacity from Game 2 on Tuesday evening, while from Game 3 on Thursday evening there will be approximately 6,800 fans at the Nassau Coliseum.
“You can hardly remember some of the regular season games,” said Spy. “You will probably remember the things you did with the guys on the street more than the actual games. But playoffs, you remember the games. You remember those moments, those overtime wins, those big ones Goals, the crowd, the emotions. You get marked in a playoff series and you don’t feel the pain. “
“I think playoffs are about new experiences, new memories, and going out there and chasing them,” said Clutterbuck.
Despite said the playoff experience over the past two seasons can only help. The lesson was that the islanders can keep up in all situations if they play the way they want – defensive with a sharp-edged physicality and a four-line balance that attacks the crease.
“It’s just positive reinforcement,” said spite. “It gives you confidence that you know you can. It gives you confidence that you know it works. But every year is a different challenge.”
This steep playoff mountain stands out high.
Andrew Gross joined Newsday in 2018 to cover the island’s people. He began covering the NHL in 2003 and has previously covered the Rangers and Devils. Other duties were the Jets, St. John’s and MLB.