The Islanders have seen this film before, and they liked the ending.
Just over two weeks ago, the Islanders were in the same exact position they find themselves in now: trailing 2-1 in a nail-biting playoff series. Their opponent then? The Penguins. Their opponent now? The Bruins.
Taking a 4-3 win in overtime in Game 1 of the first round before losing two in a row by one-goal margins, the Islanders won three straight to advance, outscoring Pittsburgh 12-6.
The Islanders preached a shift-by-shift, game-by-game mentality then, and they’ve carried that mindset into the second round.
“Obviously, it’s a new challenge, they’re different teams, they play a different style,” Jordan Eberle said Friday as the Islanders prepared for Game 4 at the Coliseum on Saturday night. “As far as the situation, series down 2-1, I can only talk about our team and I know we responded last series. We’ve always been a group that has responded.
“Our mindsets kind of shifted to the next game. That’s all you can do. It’s short memory in the playoffs. There’s always gonna be highs and lows, we just continue to move forward.”
Splitting both home-and-home sets, as they did in Round 1 against the Penguins, will be vital for the Islanders. A 3-1 series deficit would be a lofty task, one they couldn’t overcome in the conference finals last season against the Lightning, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.
The Bruins play a much more detail-oriented game than the Penguins, according to several Islanders, which makes open opportunities harder to come by. The Islanders have had to hustle for every inch of ice, and even when they create a chance, Boston goalie Tuukka Rask has been a brick wall at times.
Rask has turned aside 83 of the 90 shots he has faced against the Islanders for a .924 save percentage.
“He’s been in the league for a long time,” defenseman Nick Leddy said of Rask, who is 6-2 this postseason. “He’s been amazing for them for a long time. I think, for us, just keep creating those opportunities and chances on him, trying to get shots through from the point. Obviously, he’s a top echelon goalie and obviously a great challenge.”
No two opponents are the same, but situational experience is something the Islanders rely on. In the last three postseasons, the Islanders have swept, been swept, had a Game 7 forced on them and fell short of the Stanley Cup Final by two games.
The Islanders know how to draw from their past experience, and the situation they’re in right now happened just two weeks ago. What it feels like, what it’ll take and what needs to happen is fresh in their minds.
Coach Barry Trotz assured there was no panic coming out of the Islanders’ dressing room following Thursday’s 2-1 overtime loss in Game 3. He added that this is a team that looks forward, not back.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” Trotz said Friday. “It’s not the end of the world, it’s one game, we focus on [Saturday]. If we get the job done [Saturday], then it’s the best-of- three and that’s what it was against Pittsburgh.”
And we know what happened then.