Calvin de Haan has a pretty good poker face and strong ability to keep a very even attitude. He displayed those traits well as a rookie last season, when he had a few moments that might have shaken veteran defensemen but that he handled with a shoulder-shrugging, stuff-happens demeanor.
But having sat as a healthy scratch for the last six games before finally getting into Saturday night's regular-season finale, only because of the injury to Travis Hamonic, had de Haan at a bit of a loss for words.
"I obviously had a couple rough games when I last played, but was I surprised they took me out? Yes and no, I guess," de Haan told Newsday Saturday morning, after a hard conditioning skate before he sat out the Isles' 3-1 win over the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
"I obviously want to play . . . I don't know what else there is to say, really. No one wants to be bag-skated every day. At the end of the day it's not my decision. The coaches have to decide who the best fit is to play each game and I have to respect their decision."
De Haan battled through a couple minor injuries over the first five months of the season, missing the first three games of the year with a lower-body problem and then three more in February after he was accidentally kicked in the head by Bruins forward Chris Kelly.
But other than that, de Haan has been a mainstay, playing 64 games mostly alongside Hamonic and against one of the opposition's top two lines. Brian Strait has taken de Haan's spot the past six.
Jack Capuano hasn't said much about de Haan being scratched, usually deflecting the question to include all the other healthy scratches who have been in and out of the lineup. "You have to make sure you're focused and ready to go when your name's called," Capuano said.
De Haan signed a three-year, $5.9 million contract this past summer and it doesn't appear that much has changed in regard to his future as a member of the Islanders; he's only 23, with 116 career games and the developmental process for young defensemen is long.
And even though he made it back into the lineup, there's no guarantees he'll be there for Game 1 against the Caps next week. If Hamonic is healthy enough to play, Capuano may stick with Strait on that second pair, though he hasn't said a word about his plans.
"When I played, we obviously won some games," de Haan said. "I can't really change their minds. I'll just keep working and keep doing whatever they ask of me. They're going with their gut right now, I guess."
Isles, Caps have playoff history
Two of the signature moments in Islander lore -- one of the best and one of the worst -- came in the playoffs against the Capitals. The two teams will face off in the first round starting next week, the first postseason meeting between the two since 1993.
In Game 6 of that opening round series (then called the Patrick Division semifinal), Pierre Turgeon capped the series with a clinching goal and, as he began to celebrate near the glass at the Coliseum, was blindsided by the Caps' Dale Hunter. Turgeon suffered a separated shoulder and Hunter received the then-longest NHL suspension of 21 games for the following season.
There is a good memory, of course. Pat Lafontaine's four-overtime winner in Game 7 of the 1987 Patrick Division semifinal, the famed "Easter Epic," eliminated the Caps.
This series marks the seventh different playoff opponent for the Islanders in their last seven postseason trips: The Penguins (2013), Sabres (2007), Lightning (2004), Senators (2003), Leafs (2002) and Rangers (1994) preceded this one.