PITTSBURGH — Only a ho-hum Sunday afternoon, the Islanders strolling across the visiting locker room, having postgame snacks, chatting in regards to the Masters. No celebration, no blaring music, no huge grins — nothing that might point out they’re the verge of sweeping the Penguins.
That is the way in which these Islanders have accomplished enterprise all season beneath Lou Lamoriello, so there was not even a shadow of pomp and circumstance surrounding their 4-1 win in Recreation Three of their first-round playoff collection that put them up within the best-of-seven contest, 3-0. Possibly they received’t win Recreation Four right here Tuesday night time, however the odds of them dropping the collection are actually minuscule — small solely as a result of Pittsburgh seems like a defeated workforce. Or, extra appropriately, the Islanders have sucked all of the life out of Sidney Crosby & Co.
Now, it’s time to cease ready for the opposite shoe to fall. Now, it’s time to cease treating the Islanders like a shock and begin treating them like what they’re — a terrific workforce.
“We acquired 103 factors within the standings,” mentioned goalie Robin Lehner, who has been on the forefront of this franchise turnaround along with his personal exceptional private turnaround. “It may well’t be a shock. This workforce was no fluke this yr. Everybody seems and compares gamers and all that stuff. I have a look at our roster and see a whole lot of actually good gamers. I see a extremely good group and nice teaching.”
The organizational turnaround has been much more dramatic than the breathtaking Recreation 1 win, or the buttoned-up Recreation 2 victory, turning again the clock contained in the Coliseum. Now the Islanders may be accomplished at that fantastic and antiquated constructing on Hempstead Turnpike, with house video games for the second spherical and past set for Barclays Heart.
Switching properties appeared like such a footnote early on, as a result of there have been few who gave the Islanders the sting in opposition to the Penguins, myself included. However the Islanders don’t care about what different folks suppose. They’ve been dwelling on this bubble, constructed by Lamoriello and coach Barry Trotz in order that they solely concentrate on what they’ll management.
What they’ve managed on this collection is nearly every part. Most impressively, that has included their feelings. Josh Bailey scored the time beyond regulation winner in Recreation 1 after what might have been heartbreak from him hitting the publish within the closing seconds of regulation. All through Recreation 2, they hit the Penguins from each angle and at each flip, however they by no means crossed the road of being undisciplined.
Then they hardly flinched when the Penguins scored first at house on Sunday, which was moderately tepid in comparison with years previous — an absolute library in comparison with the Coliseum. The Isles wanted simply 90 seconds to attain twice and take a lead they wouldn’t give up. Issues occur, feelings run excessive, and the Islanders simply go about their enterprise.
“There is no such thing as a expectation. So the prediction, trying forward, we discover that to be counterintuitive and counterproductive,” mentioned alternate captain Cal Clutterbuck. “We’re simply making an attempt to take a day, a shift, a recreation at a time. That’s actually it. There is no such thing as a trying forward.”
That perspective is such a testomony to the surroundings — the “tradition,” to make use of the overused sports activities vocabulary — that has been established by Lamoriello. The concept that everybody has to have a neat haircut and be clean-shaven (in the course of the common season, not less than) just isn’t in regards to the aesthetic, however about self-discipline. For a franchise that was run like a buddies membership with a wealthy uncle sometimes pulling the purse strings for 12 years, there may be now rampant professionalism.
Off the ice, that’s handed down by Lamoriello. On the ice, that’s dictated by Trotz, who’s reinforcing to everybody across the league why he must be the one along with his identify on the Jack Adams trophy in June. Who might think about that these Islanders, primarily the identical personnel that was the worst defensive workforce within the league final season, would completely shut down Crosby within the first three video games? The folks of this venerable blue-collar city are going to begin trying on milk cartons for his or her beloved No. 87.
However you suppose the Islanders are patting themselves on the again for that? At this level, the reply must be apparent. Identical to it’s grow to be apparent that they’re the higher workforce on this collection.
“I see a whole lot of coronary heart,” Lehner mentioned, “so it shouldn’t be a shock.”
No, it’s not a shock. Not anymore.