It was a good run.
Skating around the rink with the Cup hoisted high is the only way teams finish the NHL season not disappointed. It didn’t happen for the Islanders this year and you could see and hear the disappointment with the players after Sunday’s loss. I’m not going to rehash the five-game series that ended this team’s run. We all watched and know it didn’t go as planned.
Instead, I’d like to focus on some of my favorite moments from the playoffs. Historically speaking, it was another good year for the Isles. Back-to-back 100-point seasons for the first time since the Cup era and the first playoff series win in 23 years. Yet, the fans aren’t satisfied and neither are the players. The sting of the second round exit from the playoffs will take a while to wear off, but at some point this summer I hope the team and their fans can look back and say, “Wow, there really were some special moments!”
And with that, here are my Top-3 from the postseason.
3 – THE FIRST OT WIN
The Isles played 11 games this postseason. Five of them went to overtime. The first game that boiled over into extra hockey was the first Stanley Cup playoff game at Barclays Center. It was a memorable one. The fans were rocking, and the players really wanted to put on a show. Cue the music for Thomas Hickey.
What made this special for me, and for many of the fans, was that Hickey scored the goal. He has earned respect from his teammates for playing all out all the time. He might not be the biggest guy on the ice, but he’s not afraid to lay a big hit when he can. This was the second time Hickey thrilled Isles nation with a big overtime goal in the month of April. He helped the Isles clinch a playoff spot with his first career OT-winner, beating the Capitals 4-3.
2 – WHO IS ALAN QUINE?
That’s what most of the hockey world was asking when they stayed up until the wee hours of the morning for the second longest game in Isles history, double overtime in Game 5 against the Panthers. Two weeks prior to the game, Alan Quine was playing with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the AHL.
In a whirlwind turn of events, he made his NHL debut, scored his first goal and found himself in the playoffs with the Isles. As Game 5 wore on from one period to the next, and one overtime to the second, I wasn’t sure who would be the hero, however, I did believe it would be an Islander. Watching Quine score the game-winner while standing up against the glass is something I will never forget. He was having a solid game and I interviewed him earlier that night. But I didn’t see that coming.
1 – JOHN TAVARES, JOHN TAVARES, JOHN TAVARES
We all know what the Captain can do. But just when you think he can’t get any better, he puts the team on his back and finds a way. There is nothing I can write that will fully explain what it was like watching John Tavares score with less than a minute left to tie Game 6.
His overtime game-winner left me speechless.
Over the past two seasons, I have interviewed the captain more times than I can count. This is the one that will stick in my mind forever. Exhausted and genuinely happy, he showed an emotional side that we don’t normally see.
So now the summer months are upon us. Tuesday, the team will clean out their lockers and scatter across North America and Europe to start training for next season. Changes are expected this summer.
Several big names on the roster are free agents. When it comes to Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo, I cannot say enough kind words about them. Yes, they are good players, but they are also great people. Both Frans and Kyle are guys you want as teammates. Just ask anyone in the dressing room. The same goes for Matt Martin, who cares about the community in the Metro New York area as much as his teammates. All three are proud of their Islanders roots. Time will tell what jersey they wear next season.
Finally, there is the question of Travis Hamonic. I’ve been pretty quiet about the entire situation since the news came out that he requested a trade at the start of the season. I respect Travis greatly and know in my heart there is no way he would ask to leave unless he felt there was no other option. He has stated several times it’s a family matter.
Travis has been through heartache in the past and I pray his family situation gets better, if at all possible. He’s not gone yet, but if Garth Snow can find a trade that makes sense for both sides, he will try to accommodate Hamonic. My interview with Travis after the loss on Sunday, and potentially his last game as an Islander, shows how much this team means to him.
Over the past two years, I have covered 172 Islanders games. It’s been a wild ride and I’m grateful for all the support from my MSG family and the amazing Isles fans.