Young New York Islanders Enjoying First NHL Playoff Experience
By Christian Arnold (@CA_NYHockey)
UNIONDALE, N.Y. – For a good number of players on the New York Islanders roster, the teams first round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins is their first taste of what the playoffs are like.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Casey Cizikas said of the first playoff experience of his NHL career. “You grow up your whole life, and especially in Canada playoffs are massive, and you watch them. You see all the commercials and you see all the overtimes and stuff like that. To finally be in this position where I’m actually a part of it, it’s exciting. It’s been something I’ve been working for my whole life.”
To add to the experience, Cizikas scored his first postseason goal on Sunday in game three. Michael Grabner, from behind the Penguins net, setup Cizikas for a one timer from inside the slot.
“It was all Grabs who set it up,” Cizkias said of the goal. “Great forechecking knocked the puck out of the air and he found me in that sweet spot. I just tried to get it off as good as possible and luckily it went in. The excitement that went through me and everything like is just something I’ll remember and it’s going to be hard to repeat.”
Star John Tavares also scored his first career playoff goal on Sunday. His came at the 10:48 mark of the third period to tie the game at four.
“It was good at the time, because it brought us right back in the game,” Tavares explained. “It’s hard to really think really think about that now because of the way it ended for us.”
And while the result in game three, a 5-4 overtime loss to Pittsburgh, wasn’t what the Islanders had hoped for, it seems that the experience has lived up to expectations.
“It’s obviously been a battle on the ice,” Matt Martin said after Monday’s practice. “It’s really intense and it’s kind of like a war out there, but this is what we play for. This is what we look for and it’s been a long time coming.”
For Tavares the experience has been living up to what he has imagined it would be like.
“There is just so much emotion and the intensity and the focus into every game and into every shift. All the little details, everyone on the bench standing up, chirping, into the game, talking to each other. It’s a lot of fun,” he said.
Despite the tough game three loss, and even after the rough game one shutout loss, the young Islander squad did not get down on themselves. It was a real indicator of the maturity level in the Isles locker room.
“I just don’t think you can dwell on it,” Martin said. “Even the first game, we lost five nothing. It’s something we had to put behind us right away. Both teams have to win four games to win the series and it’s unfortunate the way it ended yesterday. We played hard and we battled hard, but that’s hockey. That’s how things go sometimes and we just have to be ready for the next one.”
Cizikas echoed similar sentiments.
“It’s a seven game series,” he started off saying. “They have to win four games and we did whatever we could yesterday in that game. It’s not always going to work out for you like that. There’s going to be your ups, there’s going to be your downs and you’re not going to win every single game. It’s a seven game series…we’re going to do what ever it takes to win three more.”