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Islanders go home with respect after exit

Monday, 05.13.2013 / 1:15 PM ET / News
By John Kreiser  - Columnist
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Islanders go home with respect after exit

The New York Islanders didn't get what they wanted Saturday night -- their loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Saturday night ended the franchise's first trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2007.

But they did take away something that hadn't been in great supply on Long Island during the past few years: respect.

General manager Garth Snow launched a complete rebuild after the 2007-08 season began a stretch of five consecutive non-playoff seasons. The lack of on-ice success combined with an outdated arena and small crowds for many games led to a franchise that didn't generate a lot of respect around much of the NHL.

An 11-2-4 surge down the stretch enabled the Islanders to end the playoff drought. But they weren't expected to put up much of a fight against the Penguins, the top seed in the East and a team that has dominated them for the past few years.

But after looking nervous and scared while losing 5-0 in Game 1, the Islanders spent most of the rest of the series taking the play to the Penguins. They won two games and lost two others in overtime -- meaning that a couple of bounces here and there and they could have pulled a major upset.

That didn't happen, but what did take place was the revival of what was one of the NHL's most stories franchises 30 years ago.

I was really happy to see the fans support us the way they did, and I hope this is just the start, just a stepping stone to next year.Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic

"We took some big strides as an organization," coach Jack Capuano said. "Not many people gave us a chance to do some of the things we did. Anybody that watched the games, that saw the crowd … I'm sure we've got some respect around the League right now."

They certainly left with the respect of their opponents.

"Going through the [handshake] line, hearing what some of their guys said … 'You guys are a good team,'" said Islanders forward Colin McDonald, a former Penguin. "I don't think a lot of guys around here have heard that in a while."

Another thing they hadn't heard was the kind of noise that filled the Nassau Coliseum during the team's three home games. Although the Islanders were eliminated on Saturday, they left the ice to a roaring ovation, with the full house of 16,170 chanting "Let's Go Islanders" while the players tapped their sticks in recognition.

"The crowd, to do that at the end of the game, at a tough time, I thought that was awesome," McDonald said. "To be acknowledged in a bad situation is something we can hang our hats on."

Defenseman Travis Hamonic agreed that the Islanders gained some respect with both their opponents and their own fans.

"I think as an organization we gained some respect back," Hamonic said. "I was really happy to see the fans support us the way they did, and I hope this is just the start, just a stepping stone to next year."

Center John Tavares, the Islanders' fourth-year center, is coming off a season in which he's one of the three finalists for the Hart Trophy as League MVP. He's the face of a franchise that, at long last, looks like it's turning the corner.

While admitting he'll have a hard time watching the rest of the playoffs, Tavares said getting to the postseason was a valuable step forward for a team with 15 players who had not taken part in a playoff game before this spring.

"I think we're going to learn a lot about what it takes to be in the playoffs, to get to the playoffs," Tavares said. "Hopefully, we're going to understand that it's going to take even more to win a series. It's still tough to take it all in right now. It's just disappointing."

While Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said the Islanders "are going to be in a lot of playoffs," New York's surprising trip to the postseason and their solid showing against the Penguins will present its own challenges next season. Getting to the playoffs once is nice, but Tavares knows the bar has been raised and that his team will be expected to get there again and go further.

"We certainly know we have to come back well-prepared again next season," he said. "We've got a good idea of what brings us success on a consistent basis, and we need more of that. We've got to keep pushing ourselves to get better. That's the only way we're going to achieve our ultimate goal."

Author: John Kreiser | Columnist




1 WSH 50 37 9 4 163 112 78
2 FLA 52 31 15 6 143 115 68
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
7 PIT 51 26 18 7 132 130 59
8 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
9 NYI 50 26 18 6 135 126 58
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 50 23 18 9 119 130 55
12 MTL 53 25 24 4 142 142 54
13 OTT 53 24 23 6 148 165 54
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47


J. Tavares 47 18 19 -6 37
K. Okposo 48 12 25 -9 37
B. Nelson 50 20 11 0 31
F. Nielsen 50 15 16 -2 31
M. Grabovski 50 9 15 1 24
J. Bailey 49 8 15 4 23
A. Lee 50 7 14 0 21
N. Leddy 50 3 17 -12 20
R. Strome 39 5 13 -8 18
N. Kulemin 50 5 9 6 14
J. Halak 12 11 4 .917 2.28
T. Greiss 13 6 2 .927 2.32
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