There are a multitude of things you can point to for the Islanders’ success now over the last three years. One of those instilled in them from day one under the Barry Trotz regime was a little-known but missing quality: resilience.
Resilence in the dictionary is defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” And make no mistake, everyone knew from the get-go this first playoff challenge for the Islanders was going to test that toughness. The Penguins had their way with the Isles all year and were the favorite going in. Not just that, they owned the crown in the East Division and were one of the hottest teams in the league heading into the postseason. The Isles on the other hand dragged their way to the finish line.
But these Islanders have grown to be made of iron.
Through the course of the Isles’ series with the Penguins, they were tested on a number of fronts. But as always, Trotz’s troops passed the smell test, even though they were outplayed in several of the six games it took to advance to the next round. Thursday’s night’s series-clinching Game 6 was the perfect example and then some.
Right off the bat, they allowed the first goal to Pittsburgh’s Jeff Carter not even two minutes into the game, which could have deflated what was an electric atmosphere inside Nassau Coliseum. What happened next? The Islanders answered right back. Anthony Beauvillier scored not even four minutes later for the first of his three points on the evening. When the Pens retook the lead again, the Isles came right back with a goal of their own from Kyle Palmieri, who had a strong first round after a so-so performance after being acquired at the trade deadline. And again when Jason Zucker regained the lead for the visitors early in the second, the Isles found the equalizer minutes thereafter off the stick of Brock Nelson.
Playoff Kyle Palmieri. Another huge response pic.twitter.com/CZXbO0ZBsk
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) May 26, 2021
This was almost like a full reverse of game three, only this time it was the Islanders who had all the answers every time it looked like the Penguins would seize back the momentum. All those responses spoke to that perpetual resilience that has been ingrained in these Isles since day one.
“We were able to grind it out and dig in, that says a lot about our group,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “The playoffs are hard enough and when you have to chase the game, it’s a grind mentally…They just stuck with it. They understand the process, they don’t deviate too much from it. We just find a way to keep on task.”
Several of the Islanders said the 9,000 strong that packed the Coliseum Wednesday night helped them keep going, and even Trotz acknowledged himself that without them the team might not have been able to overcome what the Pens were doing. That was great to hear. But it needs to be said again, this group showed on their own how much resolve they have in them as a team and in their game.
“We stick with it. … It’s a mindset we have, it’s the leadership in the room,” said Beauvillier. “We know that one goal is not necessarily going to win the game so we stick to our plan. It’s the playoffs. There are going to be ups, there are going to be lows, and you just have to battle and fight through it.”
— IslesBlog (@IslesBlog) May 26, 2021
The Islanders are now on to round two where another tough opponent awaits in the Boston Bruins. The B’s are a mirror image of the Isles only with more stars and an even larger winning pedigree. They too are a resilient bunch. All you need to go by how they were able to turn their season around in April — they were middling around the wild card spot in the East just before the trade deadline — and their resume in the playoffs outside of last summer in the bubble, in which the latter can be considered an outlier.
The challenge for a Stanley Cup will only get more difficult from here, but the Isles have proven to be just as or more hardened. Last night that resilience, which has grown by leaps and bounds, drove them to a win.
Follow Rob on Twitter at @RTaub_