Leslie Monteiro makes a good case for the Islanders in the big game tonight.
During the Islanders postgame show on MSG+ Sunday night, fans were chanting “WE WANT THE CUP!” “WE WANT THE CUP!” “WE WANT THE CUP!” in the background where Shannon Hogan and Rick DiPietro were doing the postgame show.
The Islanders fans are thinking big here. They feel this is the year to get it done with the Blackhawks and Kings being eliminated in their respective playoff rounds.
There’s no question the Islanders have high aspirations themselves. They want to do more than win a playoff round this year. They feel they can win the Stanley Cup. Why not?
The Islanders have nothing to lose since they accomplish their objective this season of winning a playoff series, but they have to take advantage of an opportunity of winning the Stanley Cup. Opportunities like that don’t come often.
With Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, and Matt Martin being unrestricted free agents next year, the Islanders have to use this year as a sense of urgency to get it done.
This team has the pieces to win the Stanley Cup. Why not? Any team can win it as long as they are hot at the right time. The Islanders could be that team.
Here are two things going for the Islanders: John Tavares and Thomas Greiss.
Tavares is coming off a MVP series against the Panthers. He was the best player on the ice. He scored the game-tying goal that sent the game in overtime in Game 5, and he scored the game-winning goal in double overtime in Game 6. He scored or assisted on nine of the 15 goals the Islanders had in the first round. He had five goals and four assists (nine points) overall in the Islanders’ playoff series against the Panthers.
With the way he is going, he has a shot to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. That is if the Islanders win the Stanley Cup. He doesn’t seem like he is going to be denied. The game has come so easy for him. He is such a magician with the puck. He knows how to create his shot. He knows how to find the open guy. He makes it happen. It is expected that he scores when he has the puck.
Not many people in America know Tavares, but now he is making new friends one shift at a time with his play.
With all the Canada teams missing the playoffs this year, Canadians have turn their eyes on Tavares with pride. He is a guy they have focused on watching.
Tavares is not done yet. He is just getting started.
The Islanders needed their star player to do his thing when it mattered the most in the postseason. He is doing just that.
No one knew how great Greiss would be in the playoffs. He was such an unknown. He played in one postseason game of his career, and he never started a postseason game in his career.
Sure he had the temperament to handle playoff hockey. He does not get too high or too low on himself. He had a. 925 save percentage this season, and he was 23-11-4 in 41 appearances.
But playoff hockey is a different story. The game is faster. Teams take chances.
There’s no preparation for experience when a goaltender makes his first playoff start of his career. Experience comes by playing. That means going through baptism by fire.
Greiss has handled this fine. He has gotten better as the playoff games went on. His best moments were Games 5 and 6, which he kept the Islanders in the games by making saves after save. He was matching Roberto Luongo when it came to saves. With the way he was playing in Game 6, there was no way he was going to be denied.
He has showed he has the goods to play in playoff hockey. There’s more to come from him.
The Islanders received nothing from the second and third playoff lines against the Panthers. Now that the pressure is off on the team, maybe those players can relax and find their groove. They can’t be any worse.
There is upside on these Islanders. They are a young team that can do more. They are a team that can maximize their potential. They know what it takes to win in playoff hockey by grinding it out in low-scoring games as they did against the Panthers. That will serve them well in the rest of the playoffs.
As great as the Capitals and Penguins are, the Islanders have played them well this year. That should give them the confidence they need.
Anything can happen in the playoffs. That’s what parity brings.
It’s not far-fetch the Islanders can hoist the Cup.