Been very busy lately and I finally have a minute to check in.
The NHL playoffs on Long Island are also a big deal. Always have been. The playoffs coming back after a long absence prompts heartfelt outpourings like this and this and reminds critics and media wise-asses that the roots the Islanders laid down decades ago are deep and strong, no matter how wan the trunk and the branches looked above ground.
That’s a pretty purple way of saying that it’s a great time to be an Islanders fan. I’m enjoying it, trying to soak it all in and remember everything. Funny thing is, a week ago - and indeed into Game 1, as the Penguins were cruising to a 5-0 score - I said it was just nice to be in the playoffs. Since then, my tune has changed and I want more. And not just this Spring.
A series win is still a long shot, but the frequency at which the Islanders vibrate has changed. There’s no going back now. This roster has a new level to call acceptable. I don’t expect them to play every game as they have the last two. Nobody does that. But the days of “we’re learning, getting experience” are over. This is the experience.
They know what playoff hockey is like. They know what big stakes are like. They know what real pressure is like. It doesn’t matter that the season was fun-sized. They needed to stop a losing streak and they did. They needed to keep climbing the standings and they did. They needed to clinch the playoffs and they did. They needed to get up to playoff speed and they did.
I believe in the leadership of the team - on the ice and off - to keep the team above this new water level. Of course, me being me, that won’t stop me from worrying about it.
There will probably always be a part of me that’s afraid things will revert back to how they were. Kind of like how people who grew up during The Great Depression become hoarders or take doggie bags home from weddings because they don’t want anything to go to waste.
But right now, I’m trying to focus Okposo’s strength and Hamonic’s tenacity and Tavares’ drive and the sound of the Coliseum as it shakes with electricity. I remind myself that the story never ends, it just adds newer chapters. And I like this one.