It’s an exciting time on Long Island.
Fresh off their final regular season game, the New York Islanders were back at Iceworks Sunday, getting ready for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
While it’s no secret that the pace of play will be elevated during the postseason, Jack Capuano breaks down the Islanders strategy very simply:
“You can’t change what’s made you successful," he said. "We’re not going to change how we go about our business. We’ve got to continue to work hard.”
After finding themselves out of the playoff picture for much of the first half of the season, the Islanders finished strong, including an 8-1-4 April that landed them in the top eight. Evgeni Nabokov says it’s more important than ever to keep that same focus and drive that put them in this position.
“We just have to do the same things we’ve been doing for the last three weeks, and that’s play hard to give ourselves a good chance to win, and give 100-percent every shift,” Nabokov said. “We have to do this for three periods and we can’t take a shift off, we can’t take any time off. Otherwise, we’re not going to have a lot of chances.”
Nabokov has 80 playoff games under his belt, more than any other Islander, with all coming during his tenure with the San Jose Sharks. Conversely, 16 players on the Islanders roster have yet to play NHL postseason hockey. But the 37-year-old is keeping the advice he gives to a minimum.
“I’m not going to walk around and tell them what to do,” Nabokov said. “They’re big guys, they’ve been in a lot of different situations at different levels. And this is no different. The hockey stays the same.”
Many eyes will be on John Tavares, who the Islanders selected No. 1 overall in 2009, as he makes his playoff debut. The veteran of 291 regular season games doesn’t want to get caught up in the pomp and circumstance that comes with playing on a bigger stage.
“I’ve watched the playoffs every year since I was three years old,” Tavares said. “You’re going to see the intensity and see how much playing for the cup means to everybody. But I don’t think we’re really going to understand what the whole experience is like until we get there. We want to come out hard and not ease our way into it. There’s so much importance on each and every game. It’s going to be a heck of a ride and we need to get off to a good start.”
There’s an undeniable excitement in the Islanders room. Third-year defenseman Travis Hamonic, who will also be playing in his first playoff series, says it’s going to be important to use emotion as a strength, but not get too caught up in the moment.
“I think we’re going to be excited,” Hamonic said. “That excitement level and intensity has to be there. This is the first time that I’ll play in the NHL playoffs, but my previous experience in juniors, I think sometimes guys get too hyped up and too dug in to the game that they’re over-thinking a little bit.”
Hamonic added that the team has come a long way since a five-game losing skid had them tied for last place in the Conference in mid-February.
“You’ve got to remember what you’ve done to get to this point in the season,” Hamonic said. “For us, it’s been playoff hockey for the last month plus, and the reason we’ve had a lot of success as a team is because we’re loose, but when it’s time to be mentally focused, we’re ready to go.”