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These Islanders are making lasting memories for the franchise and its fans

Mathew Barzal  of the New York Islanders

Mathew Barzal  of the New York Islanders celebrates his third-period goal against the Boston Bruins in Game 3 at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Barry Trotz spoke to his players about seizing the moment and making it something they would remember for the rest of their lives.

That they did, blowing out the Bruins, 6-2, on Wednesday night to secure a return trip to the NHL semifinals, and a rematch with the Stanley Cup champion Lightning.

But beyond the immediate gratification of another wild evening at Nassau Coliseum, the events of Game 6 were part of a larger story arc: The second-greatest era in the franchise’s nearly half-century history.

Ten years from now, Trotz and GM Lou Lamoriello and most of the current players figure to be retired from the jobs they currently hold, based on hockey’s actuarial tables.

But no matter what the franchise looks like in 2031, we know one thing for certain: That the people associated with the franchise, and those who follow it, still will be talking about these Islanders then.

The ones who reached the second round of the playoffs three years in a row, and now have reached the final four two years in a row for the first time since 1983-84.

The ones who if they make the playoffs next year will be able to say they were the designated home team in postseason games in five different arenas in two countries over four seasons — and thrived anyway.

The ones who have gone from playoff games in front of nobody in Toronto and Edmonton last summer to 12,000 screaming fans at the Coliseum, which now will have at least two more Islanders games in its future.

"It was deafening," Trotz said. "I couldn’t hear anything out there. I had some white noise out there for a while. That was fantastic. What an atmosphere."

This Islanders era has been as good as local sports spectacles get, and it keeps getting better.

It was the second series in a row in which the Islanders fell behind 2-1, then won three in a row. "It was awesome," Brock Nelson said after scoring two goals. "The place was rocking. The fans were feeding us energy."

This sort of run is uncommon for any franchise, let alone one with a history of frustration before and after the glory days, which lasted approximately from J.P. Parise’s overtime goal on April 11, 1975, through the 1984 Stanley Cup Final.

So it has been great fun for fans, who have been pulled in multiple directions along with the players themselves as the nomadic search for a permanent home unfolded, complete with a COVID-19 detour to Canada.

The final piece of the uplifting narrative is the makeup of the roster itself, which has been remarkably stable for the modern free-agency era.

Had not Anders Lee suffered a season-ending injury March 11, there would be even less change. Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac almost certainly would not have been acquired in a trade.

Zajac scored the Isles’ first goal and Palmieri their fourth, a pair of former Devils contributing to the team Boston coach Bruce Cassidy famously referred to as the "New York Saints" after Game 5.

Nelson, a franchise fixture with graying hair, scored the second and third goals, then said having a team with so many longtime members who appreciate its history added to the satisfaction.

They bonded while schlepping to Brooklyn, then going back to the Coliseum, then living in playoff bubbles in Canada. They bonded while practicing in Syosset, then moving to East Meadow.

No matter how this season concludes, reality looms on the horizon. There is an expansion draft ahead, and the veteran core is certain to start breaking up in two or three or four years.

That is what makes the current circumstances so interesting, and so special. Now it is on to Tampa to face the defending Stanley Cup champions and the best goaltender in the world in Andrei Vasilevskiy.

More than one Islander spoke of "unfinished business" from last year. Should be entertaining. Only eight wins to go.

But no matter the outcome, folks will be talking about these games and this team in 2031 and beyond.

New York Sports