The New York Islanders pulled out a double-overtime win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday evening to advance to the second round of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.
It took six games for the Islanders to defeat the Panthers, four games to two. Florida was the favored team coming into this series. New York squeaked into the playoffs, securing the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers were the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic Division, and as such, earned home-ice advantage in this series.
No words. #CaptainClutchhttps://t.co/1ETJR52WdB
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 25, 2016
Home-ice didn't mean much here, though. Of the four New York victories, two came at home and two were away.
The star of the game for the Islanders was none other than their captain, number 91, John Tavares. Not only did Tavares score the game-winning goal in double-overtime, but he made the potential to win possible by tying the game up in regulation with less than a minute to go. Teammate Cal Clutterbuck gave his thoughts on how important Tavares is to the New York Islanders with a quote noted by Scott Burnside for the ESPN website.
"I mean there's just, you know, you talk about teams that are successful and teams that have won Cups. They all have a guy like that. He's kind of taken it to a new level here in the first round and I think it's definitely something the rest of us are going to have to get involved a little more on the score sheet, help him out."
Just how good was Tavares for the Islanders in the first round? According to the Hockey-Reference website, Tavares notched five goals and four assists for nine points in the six games against the Panthers. He shot 16.7 percent and won 58.7 percent of his faceoffs. Those numbers are phenomenal. Without Tavares' contributions, the Islanders would not have advanced to the second round.
.@91Tavares scored at 10:41 of double-OT to help @NYIslanders take Game 6 and win their First Round series vs. FLA. pic.twitter.com/s21isfTBTl
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 25, 2016
The last time that the New York Islanders had advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs was way back in 1993, some 23 seasons ago. As noted by Allan Kreda in the New York Times, the New York Islanders' captain was 2-years-old when that last playoff win occurred.
Welcome to the Second Round, @NYIslanders. #StanleyCuppic.twitter.com/lJ0jeKASWU
— #StanleyCup Playoffs (@NHL) April 25, 2016
In their next playoff series, the Islanders will face the Tampa Bay Lightning. It took just five games for the Lightning to vanquish the Detroit Red Wings.
The Islanders will certainly need some of their "role" players to step up and contribute in this next series. New York's 2015-16 NHL season was not built on the contributions of John Tavares alone, nor will their Stanley Cup playoff aspirations be built upon one player.
The statistics from the Islanders' first round victory do follow a similar path as the regular season stats for New York. During the regular season, behind the 33 goals and 70 total points contributed by Tavares, sat Kyle Okposo with 64 points and then Frans Nielsen with 52 points. Moving to the playoffs, Tavares once again leads the Islanders in points, followed by Okposo with six points (one goal, five assists) and then Nielsen with four points (three goals, one assist).
New York will also need continued support on the defensive side of the ice. Islanders' netminder Thomas Greiss has played superbly in the first six games. According to the Islanders' website, Greiss has been in net for 435 minutes while facing 234 shots and letting just 13 goals in. That's good enough for a 1.79 GAA.
If the Islanders get continued performance from their key players in Tavares and Greiss, as well as increased support from their role players, there is no telling just how far New York can advance through this year's Stanley Cup playoffs.
[Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images]