Islanders confident they'll bounce back
May, 2, 2013
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com
PITTSBURGH -- If there is widespread belief in the hockey world that the rest of the opening-round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders is but a formality, someone forgot to send the memo to the Islanders.
In spite of the fact the Isles were whipped 5-0 in Game 1 on Wednesday night, there they were Thursday, yukking it up during a spirited early afternoon workout.
"You could see the emotion that they had today, the fun that they had today. That's what you have to do. You've got to enjoy this ride," coach Jack Capuano told reporters after the team's practice.
Yes, they are playing a very good Penguins team, the coach said, "but you want to make sure that the guys stay relaxed."
Although the score wasn't flattering -– when is a 5-0 loss ever particularly flattering? –- Capuano believes there are measures his team can take to close the gap on the high-flying Pens.
"If you look at the chances overall and you go through it, we have to play better, but it wasn't as bad as I originally thought it was," he said.
"We know they’re going to play better," Capuano added. "They'll come out and they've got another level to their game, but we certainly have to have another level to our game. We have to make sure that we defend with a purpose and defend much stronger in front of our goaltender."
Although there is little playoff experience on the Islanders' roster, the coach said he didn't want to use that as an excuse for a lackluster performance that saw the Penguins score twice in the first period and jump out to a 4-0 lead within the first two minutes of the second.
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesThe Islanders remain confident, but they'll need more from the likes of John Tavares.
But the coach did say that the team that lost Game 1 so convincingly did not look like the team that battled adversity to finish the regular season strong and jump into a surprise playoff berth.
"At times last night, it just didn't seem like our team that played in the last month and a half of the season," said Capuano, who is coaching in his first NHL playoff series. "We've just got to recharge. It's Game 1; regroup and refocus and come back tomorrow night with a better effort all around."
There is a belief that the Islanders would like to be more physical and try to make the Penguins work harder for their space on the ice. But that is only part of how their game must improve if they are not to become the patsies most in the hockey world believe they are in this series.
Getting some offense will be key, specifically from the team's big guns.
Their best player, John Tavares, was held without a shot in Game 1, the first time that had happened all season.
"We have to realize we have to give more than what we gave last night," Tavares said. "Winning isn't easy. It's going to hurt a little bit. You're going to have to battle through a lot of things."
"There wasn't much room out there. It's part of the playoffs," the former No. 1 overall draft pick added. "There are times when you're getting a lot and times when you're not getting an awful lot and you're just trying to work through it, work with your linemates and find ways to be more productive.
"I'm not worried about that. I've just got to keep working hard, keep competing and find my ways to get shots and create opportunities for my linemates. At times we seemed to get a little bit of space, but we didn't take advantage of it. We have to create some more and capitalize when we get it."
Like many of the Islanders, Wednesday’s game represented the first playoff game for Tavares. But if there is reason to believe the Penguins are not simply going to waltz their way into the second round, it's the Islanders' history of resiliency this season.
"I don't know exactly what it is, but for the most part we've had some good bounce-back times this season when we've had some struggles and we've come back and done well," said Brad Boyes, Tavares' regular linemate.
Whether there's been enough of an education for this young Islanders team to slow a Penguins team that has juggernaut written all over it will be revealed in Game 2 on Friday night.
But certainly there is no lack of optimism in the Isles' locker room, even if much of the hockey world has already written them off.
"Even myself coming to the rink today, I was like, I think we can win next game," Boyes said. "I really do. And I think that’s part of our attitude too is we do believe that in here."
"With skepticism and everything from the outside from the beginning with us, it's not anything really new," he added.