By his count, four or five of Alan Quine’s buddies from the Ottawa suburb of Orléans (accent over the “e”) are planning to come down for Sunday night’s Game 6 of the Islanders’ Stanley Cup playoff series. If they make it, they might get to see something that last happened before they were born.
The Islanders have a chance to wrap up a playoff series at home for the first time since Game 6 against the Capitals in 1993. They come in with a full head of steam against the Panthers because Quine, a 23-year-old who was in the minors exactly two weeks earlier, scored at 16:00 of the second overtime early Saturday morning to give the Islanders a 3-2 series lead.
Call it a drought, a hex or a curse, but in any case, it figured that it would take something like that to put the Islanders within reach of ending it. Thirty-six years had gone by since an Islander scored his first career playoff goal in overtime — from Ken Morrow in 1980 to Thomas Hickey last Sunday — and now it has happened twice in a week.
Quine took a feed from Marek Zdlicky and, befitting a two-time club champion at Ottawa’s Hylands Golf Course, ripped a precise 3-iron liner past Roberto Luongo (and past midnight).
“It’s all been pretty fast. I’m trying to enjoy it. I haven’t really sat down to really process it,” Quine said Saturday morning in the team’s locker room. “I’m just trying to go to work every day.”
On Sunday night, he will go to work at Barclays Center, which will be bursting with noise from a crowd that likely will include Quine’s good friends from Ontario. Well, not all of them will be cheering for him. His old workout buddy and former teammate on the Kingston Frontenacs, Erik Gudbranson, plays tough defense for the Panthers. But that just shows what a small world a real hockey guy like Quine comes from.
He was born in Belleville, Ontario, hometown of Ed Westfall. Quine is the grandson of Gary “Stump’’ Craig, longtime equipment guy for the Ottawa 67s and lifelong friend of 67s legend Brian Kilrea, a Hockey Hall of Famer and former Islanders assistant coach.
At 16, Quine left his home and family to work on his game as a member of the Toronto Junior Canadiens. Four mornings a week, he was on the ice before school, working on the skills that would get him drafted first by the Red Wings (who ultimately chose not to sign him) and then the Islanders.
Jack Capuano and his staff saw something in the way he was playing in Bridgeport and promoted him two weeks ago. “You watch video and see his habits. You see his speed and the tenacity he brings,” the coach said.
On Friday, Capuano gave the center another promotion: to left wing on the first line alongside John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, as part of shuffling that sent Frans Nielsen back to center on the second line to spread out the talent. Quine said he had to remind himself to not be “in awe of those guys.”
Nielsen said everything the kid did was just fine: “Great. You don’t know what to expect from guys who just get called up, but he has come in, he’s playing confidently, making plays. He was playing with Johnny and Okie tonight and he was not afraid. It’s not always easy to play with two guys like that. You kind of feel you have to give them the puck all the time and stuff like that, but he’s playing his game. He’s a really good player.”
Quine was not out there with the captain and Okposo on the game-winner. He was on his own, on a power play, and he responded, setting up what could be a heck of a sight Sunday night.
A couple of caveats: It would be a mistake to think the series is over. These teams are remarkably evenly matched and the road team is ahead 3-2.
It also would be a mistake to say that the Islanders having two power plays in overtime was unfair or untraditional. A penalty is a penalty (or a penalty shot, which the Panthers got in overtime). It happens.
Denis Potvin spoke earlier Friday of his own second-overtime playoff goal. It was on a power play, in Game 1 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Final. “That allowed us to win Game 6 at home,” the Islanders icon and Panthers broadcaster said.
The stakes aren’t nearly as high Sunday night, but it still is another portentous Game 6, and it has been a long time coming. Quine’s buddies will be there, and many others would like to be.