Hickey Hockey; More In Game 4?


The Islanders approach to Game 4 of their series with the Panthers is in need of no alteration whatsoever.

For sheer Hollywood-type thrills, the same script wouldn’t hurt either with likable Thomas Hickey in the starring role. Hey, why not?

Just set up defenseman Hickey in overtime and The Sudden Death Kid will take care of the rest.

How this is accomplished in Wednesday’s match at Barclays Center will go a long way toward determining how the opening round New York-Florida series unfolds to a finish.

Right now it’s as encouraging as it was last Thursday when Jack Capuano’s skaters launched the tournament with a win in Sunrise.

Cappy’s crew thrilled Sunday night’s sell-out crowd witnessing its first NHL playoff game ever in Brooklyn.

To a man, the Isles said that the noise generated matched the decibel count on the best night The Old Barn in Nassau ever had.

Another game like the 4-3 decision Sunday night on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues could produce roars that might well be heard in Sunrise, Florida.

Rookie Ryan Pulock, who set the Isles comeback in motion with a dynamic power play blast, says the Brooklyn audience inspired him and his mates.

“I was at the (Nassau) Coliseum for last year’s playoffs,” he remembers, “and the crowd noise on Sunday night was just like it.”

If anything the volcanic feeling increased on hockey’s Richter scale as the Isles stormed back from the 3-1 deficit on goals by trade deadline find, Shane Prince, and ever-reliable Frans Nielsen.

And when Hickey converted the one-two passes from Josh (Ace) Bailey and Brock Nelson, you would have thought that even the next-door Williamsburgh Savings Bank skyscraper was about to dance a cha-cha-cha.

What Hickey symbolizes in this series for the Isles is how the underdog can prevail.

Small by NHL defenseman standards, Thomas somehow manages to hold his own against behemoths such as Jaromir Jagr without conceding an inch.

“Nobody on our team plays as big as Hickey,” enthuses coach Capuano, “because he will take a hit to make a play.”

Hickey’s red light at 12:31 of sudden death places the Brooklynites in position to get a stranglehold on the series with a win on Wednesday.

Here are the possibilities, both positive and negative:


— STOPPING JAGR: Jaromir, the ageless genius, is oh-for-three in terms of goals in the series. It’s conceivable — but not definite — that the 82-game season and now playoffs are wearing on him.

— FLASHY KIDS: Capuano has crafted a “Kid Line” with Ryan StromeShane Prince and Alan Quine. Small, they are, but they play fearlessly and do good imitations of Kid Lightning and Mercury.

— SECONDARY SCORING: Goals from defensemen (Pulock and Hickey) plus third-liner Prince take the heat off captain John Tavares and his big unit.

— GREISS IS NICE: Once again Thomas Greiss held his own against veteran Roberto Luongo, making 36 saves. Says Luongo of the two days off: “I need the rest to re-energize for Wednesday.”

— MOMENTUM: After losing Game 2 — and essentially being outplayed in the first pair of contests — Cappy’s Crew firmly established that it can skate with the favorites. Confidence gained by the comeback win should hold on Wednesday.

But, as the late, great Louis Jordan once wrote, played and sang, “Beware, Brother, Beware!” The Panthers are a darn good team and that’s why the Boys From Brooklyn must address the following challenges:


— THE REILLY SMITH EFFECT: The Islanders’ Johnny Boychuk played alongside Smith in Boston and knows him as a scoring threat. Now the Isles, as a team, do too. On Sunday, the Cats ace scored the opening goal, added two assists and finished plus-3. Cappy must figure a way to put a cap on this threat.

— CATS REBOUND-ABILITY: As Panthers wise coach Gerard Gallant observes, “It’s not as if the Islanders beat us 7-1. The game could have gone either way. We’ll come back on Wednesday confident.”

— EASY, EARLY GOALS AGAINST: Led by Smith, the Panthers have shown quick-strike ability early in games and this was especially so on Sunday. Cappy must address this issue and find a remedy.

Perhaps the best capsule analysis of this pulsating series so far comes from an NHL official who requested anonymity:

“Here we have two evenly-matched teams and on any given night one team or the other can win.”

Which explains why Game 4 could be the best one of all.

Especially if Hickey Hockey prevails!