By JUSTIN DEMARCO
The New York Islanders’ season may have ended on Saturday night when defenseman Brooks Orpik scored the overtime and series clinching goal in Game 6 for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but I left Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum excited for the beginning of a new era in Islanders hockey.
For this first time in 11 years, I saw the Isles win a playoff game at home.
For the first time in 11 years, I believed the Isles could actually make a run at the Stanley Cup.
For the first time in 11 years, I was truly proud to be an Islanders fan.
Not many people, myself included, had high hopes for this team in 2013. But somehow the management, players and coaching staff found a way to make the Old Barn rock again in May.
And the best part is that the organization finally seems to have found steady footing.
Owner Charles Wang is no longer distracted by his failed Lighthouse Project and has his resolve in moving the team to Brooklyn, General Manager Garth Snow has assembled a hard working, talented core of players on a shoestring budget and Coach Jack Capuano has inspired his team to compete at a high level on a nightly basis.
John Tavares has cemented himself as one of the top players in the league with his Hart Trophy nomination this year along with Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin (two other guys you may have heard of once or twice), 37-year old goalie Evgeni Nabokov carried the team on his back for long stretches this season and the Islanders have developed a shutdown defensive pairing with 22-year old Travis Hamonic and 26-year old Andrew MacDonald.
So, at the end of the day, when you look at what this organization has accomplished, you have to be thrilled.
Sure, blowing a lead with just over five minutes to go in the third period of a do-or-die Game 6 stings. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. The only way to learn in the NHL is by experience.
You can see how far this group has come by looking at stats like these from the first few games.
— NYIslanders (@NYIslanders) May 7, 2013
If you disagree, just ask the guys on the opposing bench who are mostly tried-and-tested NHL veterans with years of playoff experience under their belt.
Here’s to hoping when we look back on the Game 6 loss it will just be a building block for a New York Islanders team on its way to the top. And if nothing else, at least we have this going for us:
Don’t know who’ll win Cup but I’d say NYI win best 1st rd motivational slogan/song combo. Started From The Bottom (Now We’re Here). #driz
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 7, 2013