Remembering Back To Easter of 2007
The Islanders find themselves eight points out of the playoffs again after losing to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night. The loss, combined with almost every other team the Isles are fighting with having gained two points in the same night, put them back to the eight point differential. Just another dagger in the heart of Islanders fans that are hopeful of a late season push into the playoffs.
Although there is plenty of time between now and the end of the season, each win is crucial and each loss can be detrimental to their chances of capturing the eighth seed in the East. As I look at the standings and contemplate who needs to win and who needs to lose (just for fun, because my original prediction of the Isles falling to 10th or 11th in the East still stands), I can't help but think back to Easter of 2007.
Many of you long time Islanders fans are probably saying, 'don't you mean the Easter Epic of 1987?' Despite that being one of the most ridiculous Islanders playoff games in franchise history, I am referring to the famous Wade Dubielewicz poke check. The Islanders had traded for Ryan Smyth, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Richard Zednik with Garth Snow behind the desk for his first year as General Manager that season and believed that they could do some damage in the playoffs - but first they needed to get there. They were facing the New Jersey Devils and needed a win, a full two points on the last game of the season to get the eighth seed. After players like Viktor Kozlov, Jason Blake and Mike Sillinger had outstanding seasons while playing for head coach Ted Nolan, it almost seemed unjust for the Isles to miss the post-season.
Like many fans that day, I was watching the game while visiting family, completely ignoring everyone besides my father who was glued to the set alongside of me. Veteran grinder Richard Park scored two goals early in the game to give the Isles a 2-0 lead, but the Devils would fight back and force overtime with less than one second on the clock. I listened to color commentator Billy Jaffe literally let out his biased frustration, letting go of the objective position he usually holds when covering hockey games as he watched the Isles season start to slip away. Overtime came and went and it would all come down to a shootout for that one last and final point that would determine the Islanders fate.
I still love hearing Howie Rose shout, "that's awesome!" with Jaffe letting out a boisterous laugh of relief as Dubie shocked Sergei Brylin with his aggressive save. The win ignited hope to a fan base that needed it more than ever after a summer of dramatic changes in the front office, from Mike Milbury to Neil Smith to Garth Snow, allowed the franchise to become the laughing stock of the NHL. On that day, Islanders nation was having the last laugh.
A win today would put the Isles six points out of the playoffs. It's the type of year where it just may come down to the wire once again.
Wouldn't that be awesome?