1. THE ISLANDERS MAKING THE PLAYOFFS
A few weeks ago we talked as if it was a given that the Islanders would make the playoffs. Lately, things have been a bit more tense. I find myself checking my phone every 10 minutes to see what’s going on in the Eastern Conference. I have studied the standings, including the ROW column (regulation and overtime wins), and games in hand. It’s no longer crunch time, it’s go time for the Isles.
Throughout the year, many fans have asked me how I think the team will fair in the playoffs. It happened a lot during my time covering the Tigers in Detroit, too. My response has pretty much remained the same over the last eight years, whether it’s hockey or baseball. The playoffs are about who is hot, as well as who is healthy. Without both factors, it’s really tough to win championships.
The Isles have shown some grit over the past week after picking up points in tight games against the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets. But the injury bug has been unkind. Which brings me to the second thing I can’t stop thinking about.
2. TRAVIS HAMONIC
As soon as I saw Travis Hamonic collide with Scott Hartnell, my heart sunk. I didn’t think it looked nearly as bad as his injury against the Penguins last season. Still, I knew he would be out at least a few games.
You never want to see a player injured, but for some reason, the fact that it’s Hamonic really stinks. He’s a valuable player for the team and his absence was very notable in the loss to the Penguins on Saturday. But he’s also one of the hardest working NHL players I’ve ever watched. Even with what he’s been dealing with off the ice this year, he has never let it get in the way of playing solid hockey.
I know we were all disappointed that he requested a trade, but I bet you were happy he was still on the team after the trade deadline. Also, I’m sure you were hoping he’d help the Isles to a nice long run in the playoffs. Maybe then, he’d change his mind this summer and decide to stay and wear the Islanders sweater for years to come. Unfortunately, injuries happen and timing for Travis has been really horrible the last two seasons.
The team says he will be re-evaluated in the next week or so. Hopefully, the Isles are in the playoffs and he can join his teammates. I know as soon as the doctors give him the green light, no matter how much pain he’s in, Hamonic will be back.
3. THE DETROIT RED WINGS
I can’t help this one. I’m part of Isles Nation now, but I don’t want the Red Wings to miss the playoffs.
Part of my heart will always be in Detroit. My family is there and the Red Wings organization was very good to me for the four years I covered the team. The players who are emerging as leaders on the team are some of my favorites in the league. Luke Glendening was an undrafted kid playing for Red Berenson at the University of Michigan when I first started covering hockey. I was there when Tomas Tatar made his NHL debut. I know how much it means to Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk to keep the playoff streak alive.
Twenty-four consecutive appearances in the playoffs is truly remarkable for any sport. Detroit has been through a lot over those two decades. For many people, cheering for the Red Wings was the only positive thing going on in their lives. So yes, I want the Islanders to make the playoffs and have a great run at the Cup. But I’m also pulling for Hockeytown and the Red Wings to make it, too.