The New York Islanders are in unfamiliar territory. It had been 23 years since they have advanced past the first round of the NHL playoffs, a feat they accomplished by winning consecutive double overtime games, both by 2-1 scores, to eliminate the Florida Panthers in six games.
Things don't get any easier from here forward. New York will now be playing one of last year's Stanley Cup finalists, the Tampa Bay Lightning, who despite having fewer points in the regular season (100-97), will start the series at Amalie Arena in Tampa tomorrow evening.
Both teams come in with some issues, both in their play and on the injury list. Statistically, they match up, maybe surprisingly, fairly even, as the Islanders and Panthers did. But this series will go way beyond statistics and 'fancy stats'. The team that wants it more will be the team advancing to the Eastern conference final. The team who pays more of a price will get rewarded.