It’s a risk — Shane Prince acknowledges that. He, Ryan Strome and Alan Quine never skated together before these playoffs. They’re all young, mostly inexperienced, and play with a speed and intensity that could lend itself to mistakes, if not handled correctly.
And, going into Game 4 against the Florida Panthers, they have a whopping 10 games of postseason experience among them, all Strome’s. Quine has played in five NHL games total, while Prince, an elder statesman, has 67. Though an AHL standout, Quine is thoroughly untested, and though Prince impressed in his own AHL days, he struggled during his Islanders stint, registering only five points in 20 regular-season games.
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But here they are: the Islanders’ improbable third line, culled together on hockey’s biggest stage. Risky? Yes. But with the right execution, it could work.
On Sunday night, Prince, a 23-year-old trade-deadline acquisition, made his presence known with a second-period goal on a feed from Calvin deHaan to draw the Isles to within a goal in what would eventually turn out to be an overtime win against the Panthers. And though neither Strome nor Quine showed up on the scoresheet, Prince stressed Wednesday morning that the synergy between the three was key in that goal and beyond.
“They had enough guts to put us together — three young guys to start the playoffs,” he said before Game 4 at Barclays. “For us it’s the similar playing style. We kind of naturally click because we all like to use our speed and our skill. It’s that type of play where we are naturally. It’s not something you find often, especially in this league, especially to be put together and click. It’s been a blessing for us and definitely beneficial for the team and I think we’ve done a great job and have got to keep going.”
On his goal, he suggested to watch the whole shift. “It wasn’t just the guys that ended up with just the goals and assists, it was everybody out there, just being all over the puck,” he said. “They could have gotten the puck out at least a couple of times and we were able to keep it in and just stay all over it and that’s the type of line we’ve got to be.”
It was one of the best experiences of his career, he said. In no small part because of the result and the support. Prince is from Rochester, NY and has cousins — both close friends — who live in New Jersey and Manhattan. Friends and family filtered in from upstate to watch him score that goal — something that wasn’t quite so easy when he played for Ottawa earlier this year.
Not that all of this hasn’t had its challenges. He was drafted by the Senators in 2011, and it was the only organization he’d ever known before lack of production got him traded to the Islanders for a third-round pick in the upcoming draft. He was looking for an opportunity, he said, “but it’s never easy just to pick up your life in a bag and go somewhere else.”
But that risk, too, has its reward. Despite the slow start, he’s found regular playing time with the Islanders and is in his first playoffs, while his old teammates sit at home. He’s jived with the players around him, especially recently, and doesn’t think their season is going to end any time soon.
“It’s been a great thing,” he said. “I’m beyond happy to be here . . . for me, it’s been unbelievable.”